On April 4, 2024, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development announced a consultation on the potential introduction of a new unpaid long-term illness leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”).

The proposed duration of this potential leave is up to 27 weeks, which would align with the 26 weeks of financial assistance available to eligible employees under the federal Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits, plus the one-week EI waiting period.

The consultation paper sets out the following two proposed approaches for implementing the potential new leave under the ESA:

  1. Expanding the existing critical illness leave under the ESA to critically ill employees; or
    • Note: Currently, the critical illness leave provides an employee with an unpaid, job-protected leave to provide care for critically ill family members only (up to 37 weeks to care for a critically ill minor child, or up to 17 weeks to care for a critically ill adult, within a 52-week period).
  2. Creating a new long-term leave for employees with a “serious medical condition”.

The consultation paper further proposes that regardless of the approach selected, the 27 weeks that comprise the leave would not have to be taken consecutively or in periods of entire weeks. However, if an employee takes any part of a week as leave, the employer may deem the employee to have taken one week of leave.

The paper also proposes the following requirements with respect to an employee’s entitlement to the potential leave:

  • The employee must be employed by the employer for at least six consecutive weeks; and
  • Employees must provide a medical certificate from a qualified health practitioner stating that the employee is unable to work due to a serious medical condition or a critical illness.

Interested stakeholders are invited to submit their feedback on the questions set out in the consultation paper. The Ministry is accepting feedback from both employers and employees until May 6, 2024, via:

Mail: ESA Leave Consultation, Employment, Labour and Corporate Policy Branch, 400 University Avenue, 15th Floor, Suite 1502, Toronto, Ontario, M7A 1T7

E-mail: ESA-Leave-Consultation@ontario.ca or this online form

We will continue to monitor and update our clients regarding any developments pertaining to this potential new leave. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact a member of our team.


This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.

This information is not intended as legal advice.