I've got a major surgery coming up, and my company is just as aware of it as I am, and I'm covered for the time off, but what I'm wondering is how is a longer term leave like this typically handled?

What kind of notice period should you give for a major surgery? I let them know as soon as I knew everything, told them in my interview I was expecting a surgery date this year, and then let them know as soon as I got the phone call today.

What should my expectations be for salary while I'm away, is this typically covered by benefits, do I take time without pay? I'm guaranteed to come back, but I'm so far unsure how this will be handled, I've built up a savings just in case.

Localized info

I'm in Canada, and it is a spinal surgery, they estimate I'll be recovering for around 2-6 weeks.

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    I would suggest that you take at least half of what you're asking up with your HR department, as the answers will depend on how your company's benefit program works.
    – Blrfl
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 18:23
  • You told them during the interview process and they still hired you. Sounds like you're covered. Are they aware of the potential 6 weeks? Can you be available to help over the phone or work remotely?
    – user8365
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 18:59
  • Check this out: labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pdf/br_leaves.pdf
    – MrFox
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 19:03
  • 1
    FWIW, probably even the max recovery period is an underestimate. My husband had shouder surgery, and even though he worked really hard at physical therapy and everyone said he recovered faster than normal, his recovery was several times what the doctor said. Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 22:05

3 Answers 3


The coverage issue should be worked out with your company's HR department, as should be the mechanism for leave.

One thing I strongly advocate is making sure that you have a very thorough hand-off of anything you're working on when you leave for the surgery. Odds are someone will be put in charge of it while you're gone so leave copious notes, pointers, and any and all information you can think of to make that person taking over as easy as possible.

This will pay off in the project's potential for the least interruption/downtime as possible, the least expense getting someone else up to speed and a whole lot of professionalism points for you.


My Canadian firm has both short term and long term disability coverage which provides some or all of a person's salary while they are unable to work. We also have a policy that when you are ill, we'll cover your full salary until the short term disability starts. This is a very expensive position for us (I think it's ten days, so that's 4% of someone's annual salary with no revenue coming from them) but has served us very well in terms of employee retention: not just the person who is getting the salary but everyone else as well thinks well of us for doing it.

Some firms might not cover the waiting period for the short term disability. Some might not even have the coverage. Some might go further than us and "top up" the long term disability (I believe our coverage switches from short term to long term at 60 days) to your full salary instead of the percentage our coverage provides. (If you're not going to work for weeks at a time you're spending less on coffee, lunches, transit etc goes the theory.) The law doesn't require any of this. We're free to pay you only for the time you work. But most white-collar jobs go beyond that. You should really have asked before you took the job, but at least ask now. You may need to do some juggling and planning to make sure your rent or mortgage gets paid.

  • Thanks for the answer. I did ask before I took the job, they said no matter what "we'll make it work". I'm mostly asking because of the abstraction and I'm worried about managing expectations.
    – Grahame A
    Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 22:18
  • Sounds like they were answering "how will my workload be taken care of" and you also want to know "what about my paycheque?" Commented Mar 20, 2013 at 22:34
  • Pretty much only care about money here ;) I kid, I practice a lot of the suggestions from workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/9128/… already, and I feel that's a better question about transferring workload.
    – Grahame A
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 13:45

Canadian employment insurance provides short term disability coverage up to 16 weeks so long as you have a minimum numbet of qualified work hours. Many workplaces offer supplemental short term disability but this is not universal like EI.

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