Let's Talk About LEAVES - Part II. Sick Days (Ontario)

In the years I have practiced employment and workplace law, it has come to a shock to many employees that there are no mandatory paid sick days.

I have said this in respect of the majority of employees in Canada, whose minimum rights are subject to provincial laws (instead of the federal government). Just because an employer offers paid sick days does not mean there is a mandatory requirement, unlike vacation or public holidays.

However, this is changing in some provinces. In British Columbia, employees are now entitled to five paid sick days per year. As of December 2022, federally regulated employees are entitled to up to 10 paid sick days per year.

In Ontario, the situation is a little different. Currently, employees are statutorily entitled to unpaid sick days and, temporarily, a limited number of paid sick day for COVID-19 related reasons only. The Ontario government has yet to announce any plans to change the provincial legislation, the Ontario Employment Standards Act (the "ESA"), to generally provide for paid sick days. With that in mind, we would encourage employees to familiarize themselves with exactly what they are entitled to under the ESA when they need time off work due to illness.

Sick Leave

Personal sick days in Ontario falls under Sick Leave in the ESA. This leave is intended to allow an employee to tend to their own personal illness, injury, or medical emergency.

Below are the elements of this leave, at a glance:

  • It is available to employees with at least two weeks of employment with their employer;
  • Is up to 3 unpaid days in a year; and
  • The employee may be required to provide medical documentation to the employer.

COVID-19 Leave

Currently, employees are also entitled to time off work for reasons related to COVID-19. This falls under the ESA's infectious disease emergencies leave.

Below are the elements of the leave, at a glance:

  • It is available to all employees;
  • It must be taken for a reason related to COVID-19, for example, if the employee has COVID-19 or is caring for someone with COVID-19;
  • It is up to 3 paid days per year;
  • It is an unlimited number of unpaid days per year; and
  • An employee may be required to provide reasonable evidence to their employer that they are entitled to the leave, but are not required to provide medical documentation.

The entitlement to paid COVID-19 sick days is only temporary and is currently scheduled to expire on March 31, 2023. Subject to any renewals, after this date, employees will have no entitlement to paid COVID-19 sick days under the ESA.


Employees may have entitlements to paid sick days under their contracts. However, in the absence of such a contractual entitlement, employees in Ontario who are ill with anything other than COVID-19 are only entitled to unpaid time off work.

Employers and employees alike would do well to familiarize themselves with their rights and obligations when it comes to taking time off work. Lee Workplace Law would be happy to answer any questions you may have.