Can my employer insist I provide proof of being ill when I take paid sick leave?

I thought I had COVID recently, even though I didn’t test positive. (My partner had it, and I had mild flu symptoms.) My employer is insisting I provide proof of being ill before giving me four paid sick days. Can they do that?



North Vancouver, BC

As of January 1, 2022, BC employees are entitled to five days of paid sick leave and three days of unpaid sick leave (as explained here). Your employment contract may entitle you to more.

An employer can ask for reasonably sufficient proof that an employee is entitled to the leave. The proof could be something like a receipt from a pharmacy or a note from a medical professional. What is reasonable will depend on the situation. The factors to consider include:

  • The length of the absence. It may not be reasonable to insist on proof from an employee who only missed one day of work.

  • An established pattern of absences. But it may be reasonable to insist on proof if (for example) an employee is always ill the day before a long weekend.

  • Whether proof is available. For example, if the employee has returned from leave and is no longer ill, they may not be able to get a doctor's note.

  • The cost of proof. For example, it may not be reasonable for an employer to require proof every time if a doctor charges $50 per request.

The Employment Standards Branch has more on how paid sick leave works.

We'd suggest talking with (or writing to) your employer. Let them know that you're entitled to the sick leave at law (assuming you haven't used up your annual allotment). Explain your symptoms and what steps you took to confirm your illness. Be respectful, but confident. We've got resources on guiding you through problems at work, including tips for talking to your employer and writing a letter.

David Kandestin

David Kandestin

People's Law School
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in April 2023

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