In 2020, the average Canadian was absent from work for 12 days of the year.
No employer wants sick employees to come into the office. Coming into work sick, also known as presenteeism, can lead to poor work performance, the infection of other staff, and delays in the sick employee’s recovery. Alternatively, many employers are faced with the issue of employees taking advantage of sick days.
Whether employees have simply run out of vacation days or have a last-minute event they want to attend, employees faking illness is an issue that continues to negatively impact employers. Many employers wonder what their rights are when it comes to taking action with employees caught faking sick days, or what constitutes legitimate sick leave.
This blog offers employers advice on how to reduce misuse of sick leave in the workplace.
Are employers allowed to ask why staff need time off?
Each jurisdiction in Canada has different laws around paid sick time. In Ontario, most employees have the right to take up to three days of unpaid, job-protected sick leave each calendar year due to a personal illness, injury, or medical emergency.
Under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), an employer may require an employee to provide evidence “reasonable in the circumstances” to prove they are eligible for sick leave. What is considered “reasonable” is dependent on the duration of the leave, whether there is a pattern of absences, whether any evidence is available, and the cost of the evidence.
Can you fire an employee for faking a sick day?
While it is unlawful for employers to dismiss employees who can justify their time off for medical or personal problems, in Canada courts have generally held that dismissal is an appropriate penalty for employees falsifying sick leave or medical claims.
Case in point, in 2014, a bus driver with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) was dismissed after photos on the worker’s Facebook page showed him in Las Vegas for his brother’s bachelor party, after calling in sick for three consecutive days.
Despite the prevalence of dismissal being in the employer’s favour if an employee is caught faking a sick day, dismissal of an employee is a delicate legal matter best discussed with professionals. Reach out to our team of experts today at 1 (833) 312-8665 to see how we can guide you through this process.
How can employers prevent staff from faking sick days?
When an employee calls in sick, you should always give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them with respect. Sickness handling is an important part of every employer’s HR practices, and employers should ensure they take sickness seriously unless evidence suggests otherwise.
To promote honesty in the workplace and prevent employees from faking sick days, it’s important to have a clear and detailed sick leave policy in place. It’s also good practice to have a range of questions that promote transparency when it comes to sick leave. This includes asking your employee if they’ve booked a doctor’s appointment, when they are expecting to return to work, and which tasks other staff members might need to absorb on the
If your employee is absent for longer than a week, a doctor’s note should be requested to support their claims, which you can outline in your sick leave policy.
Additionally, to deter employees from faking sick days, you may implement a return-to-work interview as part of your organization’s absence management policy. These are conducted on the day the employee returns to work and gives employers the opportunity to ask about the employee’s health and reason for absence as well as the ability to update the employee on anything they missed during their absence. If employees know they are going to be talking to their manager about their time off, they will be less likely to fake sick days.
Do you need help creating a workplace sick leave policy?
Get expert advice on sick leave management with Peninsula. Our HR experts can assist you with company policies, and with any other HR, health & safety or employment matters that arise. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 312-8665.