Terminations and Sick Leave

One point we often consult with clients on is terminations. I always start off my conversations with the following. You have a right to terminate any employee at any time and for almost any reason, if you provide the appropriate notice or pay in lieu thereof.

When it comes to terminating an employee on sick leave if the reason for terminating them is not related to their sick leave, then you may terminate. Restructuring, poor performance, or downsizing are acceptable grounds regardless of an employee’s health status.

Employee Rights

The other part you need to consider is to accommodate an employee’s need for sick leave. It can be challenging and frustrating, but you cannot terminate an employee on sick leave for inconveniencing your business. As an employer, you must accommodate a sick employee to the point of Undue Hardship. This could be modifying their hours, accommodating doctor appointments, or providing sick leave.

There are two factors you need to consider is Human Rights Legislation that prohibits the termination of an employee based on discrimination against a protected group (such as people with a disability). Furthermore, an employee can not be terminated for exercising his or her legal rights (such as their right to take sick leave).

If a tribunal finds that your employee’s leave was part of the decision to terminate, then you will be ordered to compensate the dismissed employee for damages suffered.

Other Factors

Terminating an employee on sick leave can cause internal and external issues. People will question the reasons and you may need to demonstrate the legitimacy of the termination. Ensure you have documented proof and support to show your dismissal decision. Always document poor performance or behaviour as it occurs. You should be able to show that their termination was already being discussed before the employee went on leave.

If you need any assistance or insight into dealing with employee sick leave or terminations, please reach to People Stuff at (709) 697-2423 or chad@peoplestuffnl.ca

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