Time Off

Questions you’re afraid to ask HR about taking time off

Sep 23, 2021
min read

This month, we talked all about employee leaves and their differences, how to ask for time off, and how to return after an extended period of absence. But there’s a lot to cover when it comes to time off, and you still had questions. 

We heard you. So, here are answers to your questions for HR about taking time off. 

1. I want to take a leave but I’m worried about job security. Can my employer replace me while I’m gone on leave?

To qualify for a protected, unpaid leave of absence in Ontario, you must have a valid reason prescribed by the ESA Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). This includes pregnancy leave, parental leave, and sick leave, among others. 

Where your job is not protected is a leave without a reason outlined by the ESA. An employer can also refuse to allow such a leave of absence. 

2. Can my employer ask for proof?

In most cases, yes, your employer can ask for evidence in Ontario. For example, for sick leave, your employer may ask for a medical note from a health practitioner such as a doctor, nurse, or psychologist. 

Your HR department will be clear with what they need from you, but this chart outlines when to expect an ask.

3. Can my employer refuse my request for a leave of absence? 

While you don’t need to provide a reason for travel, study, or volunteering, if not on sabbatical leave, your job isn’t protected and your employer can refuse your request.

4. How much notice do I have to provide my employer before I take my leave?

The short answer is give as much notice as possible. While some leaves are out of your control, other leave types outlined by the ESA have minimum notice requirements, but they differ depending on the leave.

That same chart mentioned above has everything you need to know, so be sure to check it out for specifics. 

5. How do I negotiate for more vacation days?

The beauty of negotiation is there are no set rules when it comes to how much you’re asking for and why. If you’re negotiating a job offer, asking for more vacation days when higher pay is denied is a great counter. If you had more vacation time at your previous job, you can definitely make the case that your new employer should match it. You might be new to the company, but the level of experience you bring to the table correlates with someone who’s been there for a while. Leverage that. 

And if you’re looking for increased compensation at your current job, be sure to wait until you’ve been at the company for at least a year. Asking for more vacation is like asking for a raise, so it’s important that your boss is pleased with your ongoing effort. Your chances of success are higher if you tie your request to your annual performance review and/or salary negotiation – talk about your contributions and efforts, as you are already on the topic. 

If your request is approved, make sure to get the agreement in writing. This doesn’t need to be a formal contract, but it is necessary if you need to return to it, and for HR to keep a record.

6. How can I advocate for mental health days at my office?

An employer that values the mental wellbeing of their employees is pivotal coming out of the pandemic, especially when it comes to maintaining a strong employer brand. 

First, it’s crucial to understand your employment rights and be aware of your company’s time-off policy before you ask for mental health days. Does your employer offer personal days that include mental health days? Are there existing mental health policies in your workplace? 

Psychological reasons, such as stress or depression, can be considered a sickness, meaning employees are entitled to three-day sickness leave under the ESA – but it’s possible you may feel the need to lie about a sickness due to mental health stigma. At Humi, employees are entitled to unlimited paid personal days per calendar year for use, upon approval by management, in situations such as family emergencies, religious holidays, and mental health reasons, among others. 

Connect with leaders who are willing to listen and speak to HR about developing policies to promote better work-life balance. If you are a leader, encourage open and honest discussions of mental health to get the ball rolling. For leadership who may not understand, remind them that restricting mental health conversations and policies only hinders a business’ growth and productivity. Taking days off work can give employees the mental break they need to stay productive at work, limit the risk of work-related burnout, and drive creativity. 

7. What does “sabbatical” entail and how do I know if I qualify?

Depending on your company’s policy, a sabbatical is paid or unpaid time off from work where an employee can pursue personal interests such as travelling, volunteering, or studying, among other self-motivated reasons. Separate from leaves outlined by the ESA, organizations typically give sabbatical leave to dedicated employees who have been with the company for a number of years. 

Before taking a sabbatical, you should decide whether or not it's the right time. Generally, you should be well-established in your career, meaning that you will be able to pick up where you left off upon returning. 

Before you decide to leave, reflect on whether taking an extended amount of time away from work is realistic and if it would set you back. As policies vary from company to company, it’s best to speak with HR directly to discuss your options. 

For more information on how you and your team can spend less time on time off with Humi, click here!

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