In a recent arbitration involving the Ontario Catholic Teachers’ Association, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association, and the Ministry of Education, the arbitrator found that if a teacher sustains an injury during a voluntary unpaid leave and is unable to return to work, the teacher is not entitled to sick leave.

The arbitrator found that eligibility for sick leave is dependent upon attendance at the workplace; as a result, the teacher had no entitlement to access sick leave until a bona fide return to work had occurred. In coming to this conclusion, the arbitrator found that the purpose of sick leave is to provide income protection for those actually earning an income, not to protect employees on voluntary unpaid non-statutory leaves of absence. A teacher taking such a leave assumes for themselves the financial risk of illness.