Personal Emergency Leave: Overview to Leaders

Personal Emergency Leave days – Effective January 1, 2018

The Employment Standards Act (ESA), sets out an employee's minimum entitlements to job protected leave from work to attend to personal emergencies. An employee is entitled to up to 10 days' of job-protected leave on an annual basis, with the first 2 of those 10 days as paid. In order to qualify for the two days' pay, an employee must have at least 1 week of service with Lakehead. Payment will be based on regular hours at regular rate of pay.

PEL entitlement is based on a calendar year and is not subject to proration based on an employee's start date. Additionally, these days cannot be carried over from year-to-year if not used. The paid days must be taken prior to taking unpaid days (i.e., cannot "save up" the paid days for a situation that might occur later) and days taken do not need to be consecutive.

What is a Personal Emergency?

An employee has the right to take up to 10 days of job-protected personal emergency leave each calendar year due to:

  1. Their own personal illness, injury, or medical injury; and/or
  2. The death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter related to the following family members:
    • Spouse, parent, step-parent, foster parent, child, step-child, foster child, grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse, spouse of the employee’s child, brother or sister of the employee, relative of the employee who is dependent upon the employee for care or assistance.

* An urgent matter is an event that is unplanned or out of the employee's control, and can cause serious negative consequences, including emotional harm, if not responded to.

Entitlement to pay for Personal Emergency Leave

Many of our collective agreements, policies and employment contracts at Lakehead University provide for a superior benefit in paid time away from work in excess of this new minimum standard.

It is important, therefore, to know and understand the leave provisions of the relevant collective agreement or employment contract, as well as the reason for the leave, in order to determine whether the University already provides the leave benefit. Some examples of leave provisions that are provided in collective agreements and/or policy include:

  1. Bereavement leave.
  2. Personal illness/injury benefits such as sick.
  3. Various leaves under the collective agreement(s) where relevant.

Should you have any questions regarding entitlement and correct coding, please contact Human Resources.

How do I administer a Personal Emergency Leave?

To ensure compliance and appropriate record keeping, we recommend the following process:

  1. Ensure that you have clear absence reporting requirements. Employees should be advised that, when reporting an absence from work, especially for PEL purposes, they are required to clearly identify:
    1. The reason for the absence
      • Personal illness, injury, or medical emergency or;
      • Death, illness, injury, medical emergency or urgent matter related to a family member; and
    2. The anticipated length of their absence
      • Notice does not need to be in writing; oral notice is sufficient under ESA.
      • The employee may be required to provide reasonable information to support the absence.

    Ministry of Labour provides some examples of urgent matters including:

    1. The employee’s babysitter calls in sick.
    2. The house of the employee’s elderly parent is broken into, and the parent is very upset and needs the employee’s help to deal with the situation.
    3. The employee has an appointment to meet with their child’s counsellor to discuss behavioural problems at school. The appointment could not be scheduled outside the employee’s working hours.

    The Ministry of Labour also provides examples of matters that would not be considered urgent and therefore would not be eligible for Personal Emergency Leave, which include:

    1. The employee wants to leave work early to watch their daughter’s soccer game.
    2. The employee wants the day off to attend their sister’s wedding as a member of the wedding party.
  2. Why will the employee be absent?

    Based on the reason for the absence, consider:

    1. Whether it is an absence that falls under the Personal Emergency Leave days under the Employment Standards Act (defined above).
      • If NO, then no further consideration is required with respect to the administration of a Personal Emergency Leave day.
      • If YES, a determination needs to be made if the leave is with or without pay (2 day limit):
        • To qualify for the two days’ paid PEL, the employee must have completed at least one week of employment at Lakehead University.
        • If they have not completed 1 week of employment, they would qualify for unpaid PEL, unless the collective agreement provides a greater right or benefit.
    2. Has the employee, in the current calendar year, already exhausted their entitlement to 2 paid days for absences that would constitute a Personal Emergency (defined above)?
      • If YES, then the employee may still have an entitlement to unpaid Personal Emergency Leave (up to a total of 10 days per calendar year with 8 unpaid). The absence will not be paid unless the collective agreement or employment contract provides a greater right or benefit. Consult with Human Resources for guidance if required.
      • If NO, then (iii) below will apply
    3. Does the applicable collective agreement, policy or employment contract provide for paid leave provisions that would address the reason for the absence (e.g. bereavement leave, sick, or others as may be defined)?
      • If YES, then administer the absence in accordance with the provisions of the collective agreement or employment contract. Because, in this case, the collective agreement or employment contract provides a greater right or benefit, the employee has no additional entitlement. 
      • If NO, then administer the absence as a paid Personal Emergency Leave day pursuant to the Employment Standards Act and contact Human Resources for guidance

If you are uncertain and wish to obtain further clarity or confirmation, please contact Human Resources.

Documenting Time as Personal Emergency Leave

Lakehead University has both part-time hourly and salaried staff. Please note that any part of a day or shift that is taken as a Personal Emergency Leave counts as a full day from the leave entitlement.

Full Time/Contract Staff

If your staff member is contract, or full time (i.e., paid on a semi-monthly basis), please ensure that the employee completes a Leave of Absence Form. If they are not physically able due to their absence, please complete the form on their behalf and attach any accompanying support (email, etc) to confirm their request. Please remember to send the paperwork for any unpaid salary leaves to HR/Payroll as soon as the leave is known.

*Leave of absence forms can be signed, scanned and e-mailed for processing.

For further information on Personal Emergency Leave days, please contact Human Resources. An on-line interpretation is also available on the Ministry of Labour's website at: https://www.ontario.ca/document/your-guide-employment-standards-act/personal-emergency-leave#section-6