Sick Leave, Long-Term Disability, and Accommodation
The University’s interest in responding to illness and disability is twofold. First, the University’s human resources are its most important asset. Illness and disability are facts of life. Most employees, at some time, will encounter an illness or disability that affects their working lives. The University’s policies are intended to assist employees in dealing with illness and disability, and in facilitating return to productive work wherever reasonably possible. Second, the University has contractual and legal commitments with its employees that must be respected. The following material sets out the process for dealing with illness and disability experienced by faculty members and staff.
Medical Documentation and Confidentiality
Medical documentation is one of the cornerstones of sick leave and long-term disability benefits. Medical information provides an objective means of validating the illness or injury as well as providing the information necessary to develop modifications or identify accommodation to assist the employee in returning to work at the earliest opportunity. At the University of Toronto, Health & Well-Being Programs & Services is responsible for the collection of medical information and communication between the University and employee’s medical providers.
Information from a faculty or staff member’s physician is confidential and a physician requires written consent from the individual to release any information to the employer. The University in tun must secure a written waiver/consent from the faculty or staff member to contact the physician. While faculty and staff may choose to provide confidential medical information, this can never be required by supervisors directly. It is the responsibility of Health & Well-Being Programs & Services to secure the appropriate consents and maintain appropriate confidentiality of medical information while at the same time sharing relevant information with the parties involved. The office also works with academic units to assist in decision-making and planning.
The sick leave policy is intended to provide a degree of income protection for faculty and staff members who must be absent from their position as a result of illness or injury. The policy applies to all full-time and part-time (on an appointment of 25% or greater) faculty and staff. Consult with your Human Resources Office if you are uncertain whether or not someone qualifies for the sick leave benefit.
Please note that workplace injuries also need to be reported to Health & Well-Being and may result in sick leave time taken.
All eligible faculty and staff members will be granted up to fifteen (15) weeks sick leave with pay for unavoidable absences due to illness or injury. The practice at the University of Toronto has been to allow 15 weeks sick leave for each unrelated illness or injury. An employee may take more than one 15-week sick leave for the same or related illness if three months have passed between the two sick leaves.
In the event that a faculty or staff member informs the unit head of sick leave:
- Business officer follows academic unit’s procedures for tracking sick leave until two weeks absence when sick leave must be entered in HRIS.
- If the employee has not returned within two weeks, the unit head contacts the employee to assess the anticipated return to work and identify any actions the unit head must take to ensure continuity of teaching, supervision, etc.
- In cases where absences as a result of illness or injury extend beyond two weeks, departmental business officer notifies Health & Well-Being Programs & Services.
- When an employee, whether faculty or staff, is on sick leave longer than two weeks, a medical report is required. When notified of the absence, Health and Well-Being will carry out formal contact with the employee and obtain a medical report.
- Health & Well-Being retains confidential medical information but informs the academic unit and Human Resources of the prognosis, anticipated return, plan for return if known, and any accommodations that may be required.
- During sick leave, Health & Well-Being contacts the employee for updates and provides updates to the academic unit and Human Resources.
- If appropriate, the unit head may contact the employee if further planning is needed or if ongoing collegial contact is desired.
- In the case of staff members, Health & Well-Being generally communicates with employees on behalf of the University. Deans or Chairs and/or senior administrative staff may call an employee but are advised to do so with the agreement of the employee. Contact is generally limited to general concern. Questions about work-related tasks tend to be avoided in most cases. Human Resource generalists may be contacted to assist in determining the appropriateness of contact with faculty or staff on leave.
- When an employee has been cleared medically to return to work, Health & Well-Being contacts the academic unit and Human Resources to identify any issues that need to be addressed prior to a return. In some cases a gradual return to work will need to be implemented. Most plans include a return to full-time duties within four to six weeks.
Unfortunately there are times when an employee experiences an illness or disability that requires an absence from work beyond the allotted 15-week sick leave. It is in these situations that a faculty or staff member will require income replacement in the form of long-term disability benefits. In order to ensure continuity of income, academic units must notify Health & Well-Being Programs and Services as soon as it appears that the employee may require long-term disability. Health & Well-Being Programs & Services should be informed of all sick leaves that extend beyond two weeks in order to ensure that a letter of introduction and a long-term disability (LTD) information package is sent to faculty or staff member who remain on sick leave beyond five weeks.
- Long-term disability is paid by the University but administered through an external insurance provider. Replacement income is no longer the responsibility of the division.
- Unless otherwise determined, the employee’s position must remain open for two years. Temporary hires are possible during this time.
- In most cases, the position is released after an employee has been on LTD for two years and the academic unit is able to hire on a permanent basis. In the case of faculty members, this is determined in discussion with the Provost’s Office.
There are times when an employee does not qualify for long-term disability (because they are deemed not to be totally disabled) but is unable to return to work without some adjustment to the manner in which the individual fulfils her or her responsibilities. In such an instance, the University must explore the possibility of accommodation for the individual.
If an employee is able to return to work, the University must attempt to accommodate the individual in their home position. If they are unable to return to the home position, the University must attempt to accommodate the individual in another position.
The University of Toronto as an institution has a legal obligation to accommodate employees with disabilities or employees who become disabled unless the accommodation creates “undue hardship.”
Health & Well-Being, on behalf of the academic unit, will request medical documentation to identify the impact of the illness or disability on the individual’s ability to fulfil their duties. The next step is the exploration of options to identify an accommodation that will allow the employee to continue to fulfill the essential components of the position.
Requesting a Tenure Delay for Reasons of Severe Personal Circumstances
If a faculty member is pre-tenure and takes a sick leave or is on long-term disability, they may request a one-year delay of the tenure clock on the basis of severe personal circumstances. The Policy and Procedures on Academic Appointments states that:
“With the consent of the candidate and the approval of the Vice-President and provost, consideration for tenure may be delayed for one year but not more than two years, to accommodate a maternity, or for reasons of a severe personal circumstance such as a serious illness.”
Faculty who wish to request a tenure delay due to severe personal circumstances such as a serious illness should write to their unit head requesting such a delay and submitting appropriate medical evidence to Health & Well-Being Programs & Services. Faculty who are considering requesting a tenure delay on the basis of a sick leave, long-term disability or accommodation, are encouraged to contact Health & Well-Being Programs & Services at their earliest convenience. The delay is one year regardless of the length of the sick leave, long-term disability, or accommodation. The delay may be requested at any time prior to the formation of the Tenure Committee.
Useful Links and Forms
Health & Well-Being Programs & Services
Health, safety, and well-being forms
Current faculty and librarians: sick leave
Current faculty and librarians: accommodation