Let’s set the stage. You’ve just finished a conference call and you notice that someone has slipped a note under your door. It is from an employee who has left for the day. The note is from their doctor and it states, “Employee will be off for the next 8 weeks due to stress effective immediately.” What do you do?
Many employers share this type of experience – employees taking leaves and providing little or no notice. Employees are entitled to take certain leaves under employment standards legislation across Canada (i.e., pregnancy /parental leave) which have specific reporting requirements. It is important that you confirm first which job protected leave applies, and it is important that you are aware that there is a duty to accommodate for most medical related absences under provincial Human Rights legislation.
The following are the steps to follow if you are dealing with a stress related absence:
- Contact or meet with the employee and acknowledge that you received their note.
- Let them know that you will require an updated medical note prior to the end of the 8 weeks – this is so you can determine if you will need to accommodate their functional and/or cognitive related absence (i.e., gradual return with reduced hours, modified duties, etc.).
- If you have short-term disability benefits, then complete the required paperwork and submit to your insurance provider.
- If you don’t have short-term disability, then the employee can apply for sick benefits under the EI program through Service Canada.
- Complete a Record of Employment (ROE) indicating the illness or injury – the code on the ROE will be Code D: Illness or Injury.
A couple of other things to keep in mind:
- Keep in touch with the employee throughout their leave to see how they are doing and document all correspondence you have with them.
- You could hire a replacement for the role; however, they should be hired under a temporary status until the employee comes back to work.
And finally, remember to document all correspondence, etc. This will be critically important should things become more complicated or escalate down the road.