After months of lobbying on the part of the medical community and various labour groups, the Ontario government this week proposed amendments to the province’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, to provide up to three paid sick days for employees that need to miss work for reasons relating to COVID-19.
Under the Worker Income Protection Benefit, employees will be eligible to request paid leave for reasons including:
- Being sick with COVID-19
- Taking a COVID-19 test
- Staying home to wait for the results of a COVID-19 test
- Getting vaccinated for COVID-19
- Experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination
- Self-isolating due to COVID-19 on the recommendation of an employer, medical professional or other authority
- Caring for a dependent sick with—or showing symptoms of—COVID-19, or a dependent self-isolating due to COVID-19
A doctor’s note would not be required as evidence to confirm the reasons for claiming paid sick leave due to COVID-19. The benefit would be available to employees who are covered by the Employment Standards Act and who do not have paid sick leave through their employer. Independent contractors and federally-regulated employees would not be eligible for the new coverage.
The temporary measure is intended to complement the federal government’s Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which provides income support for longer-term absences related to COVID-19. Eligible employees—those sick with COVID-19, who are self-isolating or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19—can apply for income support of up to $500 for one week if they are unable to work at least 50 per cent of their scheduled work week. If their illness or pandemic-related reason for missing work continues, they can reapply for the CRSB again, up to a total of four weeks between September 27, 2020 and September 25, 2021.
With the Worker Income Protection Benefit, employers would be required to apply to Queen’s Park for reimbursement for each paid sick leave day taken, up to a maximum of $200 per day. If the employee’s regular rate of pay is less than $200 per day, employers would only be eligible for reimbursement up to the regular rate they pay their employees for that sick day.
As the government website explains in this example:
“Sofia works in a grocery store stocking shelves. She normally makes $16 an hour and works 8-hour shifts, which is $128 per day. Her employer does not already offer paid leave. If Sofia is feeling unwell and takes a day off work to go for a COVID-19 test, her employer would be required to pay her regular rate of pay for that day and could apply for a reimbursement of $128 from the Ontario government for the wages she was paid while off work, if the legislation is passed.”
Applications for reimbursement would need to be made within 120 days of the paid leave.
If you require assistance with this or any other COVID-19 relief program, please contact a member of our team.
Armando Iannuzzi, Partner