Backgrounder:  Amendments to the Canada Labour Code to provide ten days of paid sick leave


The Government of Canada has authority to legislate paid sick leave, via Part III of the Canada Labour Code, for the federally regulated private sector. This sector includes about 955,000 employees (or approximately 6% of all Canadian employees) working for 18,500 employers in industries such as banking, telecommunications, broadcasting and inter-provincial and international transportation (including air, rail, maritime and road transportation), for federal Crown corporations, as well as for certain activities on First Nations reserves.

The proposed legislation proposes to amend medical leave under Part III of the Canada Labour Code to provide that:

  • employees are entitled to earn one day of medical leave with pay for each month of employment with an employer, up to a maximum of ten days in a calendar year;
  • any day of medical leave with pay that an employee does not take in a calendar year carries forward to January 1st of the following calendar year and counts toward the ten days that can be earned in the new year; and
  • the maximum number of days of medical leave with pay that an employee can take in a calendar year is ten.

The coming into force date would be fixed by Order in Council.

The Canada Labour Code (Code) currently provides employees in federally regulated industries with five leaves related to personal illness or injury: 

  • Personal leave provides employees with up to five days of leave per year for personal illness or injury, family responsibilities, urgent matters concerning themselves or their families, or attending their citizenship ceremony. The first three days of this leave are paid if the employee has completed three consecutive months of continuous employment with the employer. In order to avoid the duplication of leave provisions under the Code, the proposed legislation would remove “personal illness or injury” from the list of reasons for which an employee is entitled to take personal leave.
  • Medical leave provides employees with an unpaid leave of up to 17 weeks if they are unable to work due to personal illness or injury, organ or tissue donation, or medical appointments during working hours.
  • Work-related illness or injury leave provides employees the right to be absent from work for an indefinite period if they suffer a work-related illness or injury. Employers are required to subscribe to a plan that will replace the employee's wages according to the workers’ compensation laws applicable in the employee’s province of permanent residence.
  • The leave of absence for members of the Reserve Force provides members of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve Force with leave for as long as necessary to treat, recover from, or undergo rehabilitation for a physical or mental health problem that results from service in an operation or activity listed in the Code. While on leave, employees are entitled to various compensation programs provided by the Government of Canada.
  • In March 2020, the Code was amended to create the leave related to COVID-19. Prior to November 20, 2021, this leave allowed employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for up to four weeks if they were unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19, including if they have contracted or might have contracted COVID-19, and up to 42 weeks if they were unable to work because of caregiving responsibilities related to COVID-19. The leave related to COVID-19 was designed to align with the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit; the eligibility period for the benefits ended on November 20, 2021 and the leave related to COVID-19 was repealed on the same day. The Government has introduced legislation to extend the eligibility period for the benefits until May 7, 2022, and to reinstate the leave accordingly.

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