It will be up to an arbitrator to decide if public elementary school teachers in the province will be allowed to take sick leave for an unlimited amount of time without being required to return to the classroom.

A source confirmed to CTV News Wednesday that as part of the tentative agreement that was reached between the province and the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario Tuesday, the government allowed a sick leave provision to go to arbitration.

As it currently stands, elementary teachers are allowed 11 days of sick leave at 100 per cent pay and 120 days at 90 per cent. Following that 131-day period, teachers must return to work for at least one day for a “refresher” period before the cycle starts over again.

Part of the sick leave provision that is headed to arbitration includes the “refresher” period, which could be removed from the contract altogether. If this period is removed, teachers will be permitted to restart the 131-day sick leave cycle without ever having to return to work.

In an emailed statement sent Wednesday, ETFO spokesperson Valerie Dugale told CP24 that school boards can request medical documentation regarding an employee’s illness at any time and added that the issue hasn’t historically been a problem for boards in the past.

A ratification vote on ETFO’s tentative agreement is expected to come later this month.

When negotiating a new contract with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, CTV confirmed that the province was able to keep the “refresher” period in the agreement. As part of the new deal, public high school teachers in the province will be required to return to class for 11 days before they can restart the sick leave period.

-With files from Naomi Parness