Sickness in the workplace is an unfortunate reality that every employer must deal with. And the negative effects this has are plain to see, which include a reduction in productivity and increased staff shortage.    

Especially through peak periods of the spread of sickness (e.g. flu season), it’s essential that your business takes steps to protect staff.    

While sickness in the workplace is not entirely avoidable, well-developed policies can reduce spread of infection by ensuring sick employees stay home. Having protocols in place also ensures your employees receive their correct sick leave entitlements.    

This should include:    

  • Outlined processes to follow when an employee falls ill.    
  • A sick leave policy.    
  • A commitment to provide employees with their sick day/pay leave entitlements.   

And when granting entitlements, you must act in accordance with Alberta’s Employment Standards Code (ESC) to stay compliant and protect your business.    

Curb sickness in the workplace with proper processes    

As an employer, there are things that you can do and processes that you can put in place to reduce the spread of sickness in your workplace.       

Such as:   

  • Ask that employees stay home if they are feeling ill.    
  • Share guidance on proper handwashing techniques, and regularly sanitize workstations.     
  • Request that employees report flu-like symptoms to their manager.  

Long-term illness and injury leave   

The government of Alberta does not mandate paid sick leave, however employers can choose to offer it. The ESC does allow employees to take a long-term illness and injury leave if they have worked for the same employer for 90 days or more.   

The long-term illness and injury leave can be taken for up to 16 weeks. When an employee takes this leave, the employer must ensure that their position is waiting for them when they return from leave.   

This is an unpaid leave. Meaning that an employer is not required to pay wages or provide benefits during this period – unless promised in the employment contract.   

 Reasons for taking this leave include:  

  • Injury   
  • Illness   
  • Quarantine 

Prior to the start of the leave, the employer must be provided a medical certificate that outlines the expected length of the leave (the certificate must be issued by a nurse practitioner or physician). The certificate should be provided before the leave starts. If this is not possible, it must be provided as soon as is reasonable.   

Also, any workers who the ESC does not apply to are not eligible for this leave.   

These workers/individuals include:  

  •  Federally regulated industries 
  • Self-employed workers  
  • Contractors  
  • Volunteers 
  • Family members 
  • Farm and ranch workers employed on small farms 

Developing a sick leave policy    

It’s essential you develop a sick leave policy that clearly states your expectations regarding how an employee should report any sickness related absence and request sick leave.    

Things your policy should cover include:    

  • If you require that an employee provide a doctor’s note.    
  • A plan for who will take over the employees duties while they are away on sick leave.   
  • How you will respond if concerning absence patterns appear.    
  • Whether you plan to offer a paid sick leave – whether or not this is provided is based on the employer’s discretion – unless already provisioned in the applicable employment standards legislation.    

Need help developing a sick leave policy?    

If you need help developing a sick leave policy or are at all unclear about sick leave entitlements, Employer Line is here to help. Our experts are on the line to support you through this and ensure compliance with the ESC. Call Employer Line today at 1-888-219-8767.