Personal Emergency Leave: What Does it Cover?

By: Sean O’Donnell

These blog posts are meant to provide educational content and are not to be taken as legal advice.


Employees are often confused as to their entitlements when it comes to Personal Emergency Leave. And it’s no wonder, since a lot has changed in recent years.

When Bill 148, the Fair Standards in Employment Act, was introduced only a few years ago, it provided employees with two paid days per year and eight unpaid days per year, which they could use for any type of personal emergency. Under this legislation, employers were not allowed to demand any kind of proof from employees that the leave was reasonable. 

However, when Bill 47, the Making Ontario Open for Business Act, replaced Bill 148, the Fair Standards in Employment Act, on January 1, 2019, it eliminated Personal Emergency Leave and replaced it instead with three distinct categories of leave including Sick Leave, Family Responsibility Leave and Bereavement Leave. 

In this article, we review the details and entitlements relative to each type of leave:

Sick Leave

Under the new legislation, employees are entitled to three unpaid sick days per year, which may be taken because the employee has an illness, injury or medical emergency. Employers may choose to require evidence of the need for leave, such as a doctor’s note from the employee. 

Family Responsibility Leave

Employees are entitled to an additional three unpaid days of leave for an injury, illness or medical emergency of a family member including the employee’s:

  • Spouse
  • Parent or spouse’s parent (including step parents and foster parents)
  • Child or spouse’s child (including step children and foster children)
  • Grandparent or grandchild or spouse’s grandparent or grandchild (including step and foster grandparents and grandchildren) 
  • Child’s spouse
  • Sibling
  • Dependant relative

Once again, the employer is entitled to request evidence from the employee that they were entitled to the leave. 

Bereavement Leave

Employees are entitled to two unpaid bereavement leave days for any person mentioned on the list above. Once again, the employer is allowed to request that the employee provide evidence that the leave is reasonable. 

What if you need more leave time?

Just because Bill 47 limits the amount of leave that employees are entitled to, it does not mean that an employer can fire them if they need more time to recover from an injury or look after a sick child. Employers who do this risk having human rights complaints filed against them. 

The Ontario Human Rights Code makes provisions for employees who have to take time off because they are ill or because they are looking after a relative who is ill. Employers have a duty to accommodate those employees, provided that it does not cause the employer undue hardship; and most employers would very hard pressed to demonstrate that an employee taking a few extra days off was the cause of undue hardship!

If you would like more help in understanding Bill 47 or any of the types of leave that it provides for, contact our office today.