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A guide to paid leave laws in Canada

April 16, 2024

When you start hiring employees in Canada, you need to understand what mandatory benefits your Canadian employees are legally entitled to, including paid time off (PTO) benefits. While most of the laws regarding paid leave in Canada are determined by the federal government and nationally standardized, there’s some variance by province to be aware of.

Understanding local laws regarding PTO are critical so that employers are legally compliant, and employees get the time off that they’re entitled to. This guide explores the basic ins and outs of both paid (and unpaid) leave in Canada.

Annual Leave Entitlements


Canadians accrue annual vacation time based on years of employment at a company. At the highest level, vacation entitlement benefits are calculated like this:

  • After one year, they get at least two weeks of vacation and 4% vacation pay based on their gross income.
  • For five or more years, it becomes at least three weeks of vacation and 6% vacation pay based on their gross income.
  • For employees with more than 10 years at the same company, they are entitled to at least four weeks of vacation and 8% vacation pay based on gross income.

There are also some provincial variances that you’ll also need to be aware of and implement to remain compliant.

Public Holidays

Canadians celebrate the following public holidays, which are a mix of religious and secular. Some of the dates vary from province to province, and some provinces don’t provide PTO for each general holiday, so it’s important for employers to know where each Canadian employee is based in order to provide the proper holiday pay.

  • New Year’s Day: January 1
  • Family Day: Third Monday in February
  • Good Friday: Date varies and not a full holiday in all provinces
  • Easter Monday: Date varies and not a full holiday in all provinces
  • Victoria Day: The last Monday before May 25
  • Canada Day: July 1
  • Labour Day: First Monday in September
  • National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: September 30
  • Thanksgiving: Second Monday in October
  • Remembrance Day: November 11
  • Christmas Day: December 25
  • Boxing Day: December 26

Sick Leave

Full-time employees (anyone who works at least 37.5 hours a week) in Canada are entitled to 9.375 hours of paid sick leave for each month of continuous employment, and up to 75 hours pay. Part-time employees have prorated sick days.

Federally regulated employees (meaning employees in federally regulated industries like postal service or shipping) are entitled to up to 10 days of sick leave.

Parental Leave

New parents in Canada have access to two levels of parental leave — standard and extended leave. This encompasses both maternity leave and paternity leave. It’s up to the parents to decide which type of leave they’re going to take, but once a choice is made, parents can’t switch.

  • Standard leave is 52 weeks (12 months)
  • Extended leave is 78 weeks (18 months)

Both standard and extended leaves can be split between both parents — with some limits. For standard leave, up to 40 weeks can be shared, but one parent can’t receive more than 35 weeks of leave. With extended, parents can share up to 69 weeks, but one parent can’t receive more than 61 weeks of benefits.

Employers don’t pay for parental leave, it’s funded by the Government of Canada via Employment Insurance, although employers can top up the benefits if they wish. Parents are entitled to up to $668/week (or 55% of the income) for standard leave and up to $401/week or (33% of their income) for extended leave.

Additional Types of Leave

Personal Leave

Employees can take up to five personal days each calendar year to attend to personal matters, such as education-related tasks or healthcare obligations. This type of leave can be either unpaid or paid, depending on the reason for needing time off.

Medical Leave

Employees are eligible for both paid and unpaid medical leave in Canada. They are entitled to up to 27 weeks of unpaid medical leave protection for personal illness, injury, medical conditions, and medical appointments. Canadians can also take up to 10 days of paid medical leave for similar issues. Medical leave with pay kicks in after 30 days of continuous employment.

Leave for Court or Jury Duty

All employees can take leave to deal with judicial matters. This includes being a witness, sitting on a jury, or participating in jury selection.

Leave of Absence for Members of the Reserve Force

Members of Canada’s Reserve Force can take up to 24 months of leave in a 60-month period. This benefit kicks in after 30 days of continuous employment and can be used for reservist activities such as training, an operation in Canada or abroad, or any activity set out in the regulations.

Leave for Traditional Aboriginal Practices

Indigenous employees are granted up to five days of leave to take part in traditional practices. These include, but aren’t limited to, activities like hunting, fishing, and harvesting.

Compassionate Care Leave

Employees can take up to 28 weeks of unpaid leave during a 52-week period to look after a family member who is seriously ill and at risk of death.

Leave Related to Critical Illness

Canadians are entitled to up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave in a 52-week period to care for a critically ill child. They’re also able to take up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a critically ill adult (like a parent or sibling). The difference between critical illness leave and compassionate care leave is that with compassionate care, there is a serious chance of death.

Bereavement Leave

Canadians can take up to 10 days of bereavement leave following the death of an immediate family member. If necessary, this can be taken immediately following compassionate care or critical illness leave.

Leave Related to Death or Disappearance of a Child

If an employee has a child under the age of 25 who goes missing or dies they are entitled to take up to 156 days of unpaid leave — unless they are charged with a crime related to that death or disappearance.

Leave for Victims of Family Violence

Victims of family violence and the parents of children who are victims of family violence are entitled to up to 10 days of leave per calendar year. This leave can be used for actions such as seeking medical attention and getting legal help or advice.

EORs Help Companies Comply with Canadian Paid Leave Laws

The tricky part about managing paid and unpaid leave in Canada is that while everything is federally mandated, there are provincial variations. Rather than try to learn each law, provincial variation, and manage compliance on your own, it’s much easier to partner with an Employer of Record — the experts when it comes to compliantly hiring and managing international employees in more than 180 countries around the world, including Canada.

Contact us today to schedule a demo and learn how we can help you get started hiring in Canada (and beyond).