Ontario announces the end of sick notes

3 minute read
13 May 2024

On April 24, 2024, Ontario's Health Minister announced that employers would no longer be permitted to request that a sick employee provide a doctor's note to justify their absence. This change is part of new legislation proposed by the Minister of Labour, and is part of a larger initiative to reduce paperwork for physicians.

Under the current provisions in the Employment Standards Act, 2000 ("ESA"), employees who have been employed for at least two consecutive weeks are entitled to a minimum of three days per year of sick leave. The ESA currently allows employers to require employees to provide "evidence reasonable in the circumstances" that the employee is sick. Historically, this has included the option of a doctor's note.

The amendment abolishing "sick notes" applies to employees when using the three days of statutory sick leave under the ESA. Moving forward, employers can still require employees to provide different forms of evidence supporting their illness, such as a signed self-attestation, but such evidence cannot involve physician intervention.

Objective behind the changes

The goal of this measure is to alleviate the heavy burden put on physicians, which in turn allows them more time to spend on direct patient care. The Ontario Medical Association confirms that "unnecessary paperwork" takes up approximately 19 hours, or 40 per cent, of a physician's weekly time.

Employer takeaways

Based on the government announcement, the proposed changes would be limited to the three ESA-mandated sick days. For these three days, employers can request that employees sign a declaration stating that they cannot attend work due to sickness. It does not appear that the changes will affect supporting evidence required for human rights accommodations or workplace policies for longer leaves. We continue to monitor the developments as the bill is introduced in the legislature.

For further information on the rights and obligations related to statutory sick leave, including what information can be requested of employees, please contact a member of the Employment, Labour & Equalities Group.

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