What’s the Deal with Paid Sick Days?
The topic of paid sick days came up recently for a client who called my office. It was good timing since the Toronto Star just published an article on a similar topic. Of course I was happy to share some knowledge with the Dentist, and I thought I would share it with our online community as well.
- Family Medical Leave – allows an unpaid leave of up to 8 weeks to care for an immediate family member (subject to some conditions).
- Organ Donor Leave – allows an employee who has worked at least 3 months to take 3 months of unpaid leave to donate organs (subject to some conditions).
- Critically Ill Child Care Leave – allows an employee who has worked for at least 6 months to take an unpaid leave of up to 37 weeks to care for a child with a serious illness or injury (subject to some conditions).
- Personal Emergency Leave – allows an employee of a large business (over 50 employees) to take an emergency unpaid leave of 10 days (subject to some conditions).
As you can see, the law generally permits unpaid leave when illness or an emergency is involved. There is nothing said about paid sick days.
Paid sick days for minor illnesses are sometimes seen in unionized employment (where that benefit is negotiated), where that benefit is negotiated in an employment contract, or where the employer and employee have agreed to such an arrangement over the course of time. As a small employer, a Dentist could choose to provide paid sick days as an additional employment benefit (like a fitness allowance for example), but it is not mandatory that small employers in Ontario provide paid sick days.
WHAT TYPE OF ILLNESS OR INJURY?
The type of illness or injury is also important to consider from a practical standpoint. For dental employees working very closely with the public (I don’t think there is a profession that works any closer!), a Dentist may want to
encourage sick employees to stay home for a day for the benefit of their patients and not worry about losing a day of pay.
In any event, if the illness is a common cold, that could be a paid or unpaid sick leave (subject to the unique employment situation).
If the employee, for example, has a broken leg and needs to sit in a certain chair to work, then the employee may not need to take a sick day – the Dentist could accommodate that employee and perhaps get the employee a special chair. This avoids unpaid leave for the employee and avoids a significant disruption to your business.
If, in an extreme example, the employee discloses they have an alcohol addiction and need time off work, employers are required to accommodate. Unpaid time off would probably be included as part of that accommodation.
I also wanted to draw attention to two specific types of employees as they relate to sick days.
- For dental hygienists, denturists, and all dentists, the law says they are not allowed to take Personal Emergency Leave leave where taking the leave would constitute an act of professional misconduct or avoiding their professional duties.
- For associates, we normally advise our clients to specify in the employment contracts whether associates are entitled to sick days and whether they must use a vacation day if they are ill.
In summary, paid sick days can be treated as an additional benefit to being employed in your dental practice. But, Dentists are not required to provide paid sick days to employees of your small business.