A man kneeling on one knee in front of a tombstone placing a hand on top of it

What is Bereavement Leave? A Guide for Ontario Employers

5 min read | May 13, 2024
 Stephen Pedder- Ad Culture By Stephen Pedder

Employees want to work for a company that cares, especially when they lose a loved one. Implementing clear company policies about bereavement leave shows you understand the local laws and may increase your chances of hiring quality talent

Here, we’ll explain the Ontario laws surrounding bereavement leave to help you stay up to code. From the definition of this leave and the things it covers to processing it in the workplace, you’ll learn everything you need to know about bereavement leave Ontario workplaces must offer in this article.

What Is Bereavement Leave? 

A bereavement leave lets employees take unpaid time off upon the death of a family member. They can use this time to mourn, attend a funeral or memorial service, settle estate matters, or fix funeral arrangements. Employees can use this leave at the time of a family member’s death or a later date. 

According to section 50.0.2 of the Employment Standards Act, 2000, employees are entitled to two unpaid bereavement days in Ontario. They must be working for the employer for at least two consecutive weeks or 14 days to have the entitlement. 

An employee can file for unpaid bereavement leave when any of the following family members pass away:

  • Employee’s spouse
  • Parent, step-parent, or foster parent of an employee or their spouse
  • Child, step-child, or foster child
  • Grandparents, step-grandparents, grandchild, or step-grandchild of the employee or their spouse
  • Son- or daughter-in-law
  • Siblings
  • A relative depending on the employee

The death of certain family members such as an aunt, uncle, nephew, or niece doesn’t grant the employee their right to bereavement leave under the ESA guidelines however every employer can use their discretion to provide more time or apply it to family members not included in the list. 

A person carrying a couple of flowers while placing their hand on top of a brown coffin

Image Source: Canva

How Many Bereavement Days Can An Employee Take in Ontario?

Employees covered by the ESA are entitled to bereavement leave of up to two days in Ontario every calendar year, and they can’t carry over unused days to the next calendar year. If a worker wishes to use a part of a bereavement leave in Ontario, the employer may consider this as a one-day leave. 

This rule may not apply to federally regulated employees working in the province. These individuals are covered by the Canada Labour Code, which states that employees can file up to 10 days of absence when a family member passes away as long as they’ve been working for the employer for three consecutive months.

Are Bereavement Days Paid in Ontario? 

The bereavement pay Ontario companies offer depends on their policies. Under the ESA guidelines, bereavement leave for employees in Ontario does not have to be paid. However, they can get paid bereavement leave in Ontario if employers state so in the employee handbook or employment contract. Otherwise, the standard bereavement leave laws under the ESA apply to the employee. 

In the case of federally regulated employees working in Ontario, these individuals are entitled to receive payment for the first three days of their 10-day bereavement leave. 

Related: 15 Tips for Retaining Top Talent

Handling Bereavement Leave Notices 

Employers should let employees know they must inform management or human resources before taking bereavement days in Ontario. If an employee has to begin the unpaid leave before the notice, they must inform the employer as soon as possible, either through oral or written communication. Make sure to record the absence in writing.

Requiring Proof From Employees

The ESA guidelines grant the employer the right to demand proof from an employee filing for bereavement leave in Ontario. Companies should accept the following as enough evidence:

  • Death certificate
  • Obituary
  • Notice from a funeral home
  • Appointment with an estate lawyer

How to Support Grieving Employees 

Employees who have lost a loved one need support now more than ever, and being one of their support pillars makes them feel safe and cared for. Expressing sympathy strengthens work culture and shows workers you’re there when they need you. 

Below are ways you can show support and compassion to grieving employees: 

  • Check-inwith employees on bereavement to express sympathies and make them feel valued. Offer support, identify signs they need help, and hear what they have to say. 
  • Encourage them to take bereavement leave to settle family matters. If bereavement days are limited, offer an alternative to give them more time to process emotions. 
  • Once they return from a bereavement leave, ask them about their ability to handle their workload. Some deal with grief by overworking, while others experience low productivity due to negative emotions. 
  • Offer channels for help, such as grief counselling and therapist appointments.

Related: How To Make People Want To Work For You

An employer and employee discussing bereavement leave policies in Ontario

Image Source: Canva

Be Transparent on Bereavement Benefits When Recruiting 

Job seekers today prefer companies with clear benefits and compensation packages, bereavement pay included. So, expect them to ask “Is bereavement leave paid?” during your hiring process. If you want to make your company more attractive in recruiting talent, let them know about your company policies and bereavement leave in Ontario early on.

Boost your chances of finding high-quality candidates with Ad Culture, Toronto’s leading recruitment agency. We specialize in matching marketing companies with skilled applicants who fit their culture, adding value and assets to your organization. 

Send us a message or call us at (416) 827 2944 to know more about our services.

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