Understanding Paid Sick Days in Ontario: A Guide for Employers

One of your workers calls out sick before their shift – are they entitled to paid sick days? In this commonplace situation, it is vital to understand laws around paid sick days in Ontario and be able to communicate them effectively, no matter how big or small the business is. This guide will break down the rights and responsibilities for both you and your employees, that all employers should know about paid sick days in Ontario.

What does Ontario law say about Paid Sick Days?

Currently, an employer in Ontario is not required to provide paid sick days to its workers. Employers are only required to provide their workers with at least 3 unpaid, job-protected sick days per calendar year, according to the Employment Standards Act (ESA). This is provided that the employee has worked for at least 2 consecutive weeks, regardless of whether they work full-time or part-time. This is also applicable no matter when they were hired, even if they joined the team in December.

Sick days can be taken in partial amounts rather than the full day, but it is up to the employer whether it counts as a full day. Unused sick days also do not roll over into the following year if they were not taken.

As a side note, the term job-protected indicates that the employee has the legal right to return to their job once their leave is over, and without fear of reprisal.

While this law applies to most Ontario workers, it is important to remember that those who work in Canada’s federally regulated industries, such as postal, telecommunication, and banking services, are legally entitled to 10 paid sick days.

How do I know if an employee is eligible to take a sick day?

One of your employees, Gordon, calls you before his shift to tell you he injured himself while attempting a snowboarding trick and needs to take a sick day. It is technically a result of his own negligence, so is he eligible to take a sick day?

The answer is, yes! Employees are allowed to take sick leave in Ontario for illnesses, injuries, and medical emergencies, even if it was of their own doing. They can also take sick leave for a pre-planned procedure, so long that it is considered medically necessary.

Does an employee have to give notice for Sick Days?

The law states that Ontario workers must notify their employer about their intent to take sick leave before the start of it, or as soon as reasonably possible. This can be in writing or verbally. However, they do not lose the right to take the leave if they are not able to let their employer know in advance. This applies to both unpaid and paid sick days in Ontario.

Can an employer ask for a doctor’s note in Ontario?

Employers may require their workers to provide proof “reasonable in the circumstances” that they are eligible to take a sick day. What is considered “reasonable” is entirely dependent on the individual situation and up to the discretion of the employer. This can include the timing of the leave, if there is a pattern of absences, if proof is available, and if there is a cost to the evidence.

Take the earlier scenario, for example. You may ask Gordon to provide some kind of evidence that this event occurred. This can take the form of a medical note that details when he was seen by a health care professional, if he was seen in person, and how long he is expected to be out for.

With that being said, employers cannot ask for information regarding any diagnoses or the treatment plan for the medical condition.

Sick Leave Policies for Employers

The guidelines around taking time off can be confusing, both for the employer and the employee. It is always recommended to have a sick leave policy outlined, so there is no room for doubt or ambiguity. This should be easily accessible to your workers in the Employee Handbook and/or written in their terms of employment.

Need help creating your business’s sick leave policy? Let us do it for you. Click here to contact us.

While not required by Ontario law, providing additional sick days or other leaves such as ‘Personal Days’, paid or unpaid, is seen as a valuable benefit. This can incentivize prospective employees during recruitment and help decrease employee turnover and should be taken into consideration when forming or reviewing your company’s policies.

If an employer has a policy in place with a greater benefit than the 3 unpaid sick days required by the ESA, the business’s policy will apply instead of the standard, and not in addition to.

For example, if your business offers three days of paid sick leave and two unpaid personal days, this will replace the 3 mandatory sick days.

It is also important to remember that Sick Leave is one of the other types of leaves outlined by the ESA, such as Bereavement Leave, Critical Illness Leave, and Family Medical Leave. An employee may be entitled to more than one type of leave for the same situation. In that case, each of them would apply. A single day’s absence would then only count against one of the entitled leaves, even if it is applicable to more than one.

Want To Learn more?

Interpreting and following ESA guidelines can be challenging and confusing. If you are an employer and have questions about sick leaves, other types of statutory leaves, or how to write a policy, our team at HR Performance & Results can help. Click here to contact us today.

Check out our related articles:

My Employee Is Taking a Stress Leave With No Notice, What Do I Do?

How To Create an Employee Handbook – HR Performance & Results 

Do Part Time Employees Get Vacation Pay? – HR Performance & Results



  1. Sick leave: Your guide to the Employment Standards Act. Ontario.ca. (2023, December 21).
  2. 10 days of paid sick leave now in force for nearly 1 million federally regulated workers across Canada. Canada.ca. (2023, December 1).