The Fundamentals - Leave Without Pay

Leave Without Pay for Reasons of Illness and Injury (Sick Leave Without Pay, SLWOP) Footnote 1

The Treasury Board's Directive on Leave and Special Working Arrangements identifies how to manage specific leave-without-pay situations. This includes granting leave without pay if either paid sick leave credits or injury-on-duty leave has been exhausted. The directive states, ”for administrative and benefits purposes only, this type of leave without pay is referred to as sick leave without pay [SLWOP] and is recorded as such.”

Managing the Duration of Leave Without Pay for Reasons of Illness and Injury

When there is a good chance that a person will be able to return to work within the foreseeable future (the length of which will vary according to the circumstances of the case), leave without pay provides an option to bridge the employment gap. The period of leave without pay is to be flexible enough to allow for accommodation to assist in recovery and return to work.

Such leave without pay is to be reviewed with input from the employee on an ongoing basis. Wherever medically possible, a return-to-work plan should be developed. Each case must be evaluated on the basis of its particular circumstances, but regular re-examination ensures that appropriate communication and supports are in place and that the continuation of leave without pay is warranted.

However, when there is little probability that a worker will be able to return to work within two years after the leave began, the manager and employee may identify on an objective basis a plan for continuation of leave without pay (for definitive period), resignation or retirement.

If it is known that the leave may exceed two years and it is clear that a person will not be able to return to work within the foreseeable future, the manager (or appropriate delegated authority) is to consider granting leave without pay for a period sufficient to enable the person to make the necessary personal adjustments and preparations for separation from the core public administration on medical grounds.

All leave without pay due to illness or injury in the workplace will be terminated by the employee's:

  • Return to work;
  • Resignation or retirement on medical grounds;
  • Cessation of employment pursuant to section 42 of the Public Service Employment Act; or
  • Termination for reasons other than breaches of discipline pursuant to the Financial Administration Act.

Promising Practices

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC)

The main objective in disability management accentuates the manager's responsibility for being actively and continuously engaged in cases related to illness, injury and disability. This is essential so that affected employees are effectively made aware of applicable stay-at-work and return-to-work options. Employees who have been deemed medically unfit or certified as incapable to actually return to work are provided with the proper assistance and support regarding other available options.

The overall success for addressing disability management cases is attributed to:

  • The creation of a new division—Health, Safety and Disability Management—integrating occupational health and safety, the duty to accommodate, departmental coordination of the Employee Assistance Program, and disability management under the same reporting relationship;
  • The establishment of a centralized unit of disability management advisors, which delivers support and advice enterprise-wide;
  • The promotion and instilling of an integrated approach to disability management with respect to all relevant stakeholders; and
  • The delivery of disability management information sessions to managers and committees.

Statistics Canada

Statistics Canada set up a Performance Management Steering Committee with a mandate to review and assess employee performance management and to develop ways to improve employees' performance. The committee looked into the issue of employees on leave without pay for more than two years and decided to pay special attention to these files, but from the performance management point of view. The committee reviewed the number of cases, the related costs and the main trends. The Labour Relations Sector first focused on the work backlog, i.e., the files that had been set aside because of insufficient resources or because of inattention and that needed to be brought forward. The advisors examined the cases where employees had already accumulated their years of service and the ones that had been raised by managers. They started by asking these employees to update their medical information and sent them letters outlining different options.

Transport Canada

Transport Canada actively manages leave without pay. An automated system issues an electronic notice to Compensation when an employee has used up more than 20 days of paid leave because of sickness. As soon as a leave becomes leave without pay, an electronic reminder system generates a note to Compensation, which then looks after sending employees the necessary forms and suspends their pay. Compensation deals with management and the employee on leave.

As well, an annual report on leave without pay over one year is sent to the regions. The department starts the steps for addressing these situations at the one-year mark. A letter outlining options (with funding) is issued one year after the start of the leave. When the department requests a first medical assessment from Health Canada, the question of medical retirement is sometimes raised. Transport Canada has also changed its delegation of authorities instrument. Any leave without pay beyond one year must be approved by Transport Canada's Executive Management Committee, which reports directly to the Deputy Minister.

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