Originally set to expire on December 31, 2021, Premier Doug Ford's government has announced that it is extending the Worker Income Protection Benefit program until July 31, 2022.
The Worker Income Protection Benefit Program
The program requires employers to provide all eligible employees with up to three (3) paid days off for a range of reasons related to the pandemic, including:
- going for a COVID-19 test;
- staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test;
- being sick with COVID-19;
- getting individual medical treatment for mental health reasons related to COVID-19;
- going to get vaccinated;
- experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination;
- having been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 by an employer, medical practitioner or other specified authority;
- providing care or support to certain relatives for COVID-19
related reasons, such as when they are:
- sick with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19;
- self-isolating due to COVID-19 on the advice of a medical practitioner or other specified authority;
- providing care or support to their child who is getting vaccinated against COVID-19 or is experiencing side effects from the vaccine.
Employers are generally required to pay employees the wages they would have earned had they not taken the leave, up to $200.00 per day for up to three (3) days.
Per the program, eligible employers are entitled to be reimbursed from the government the amount that they paid to their employees, up to $200 per employee per day taken. The Ministry of Labour released program statistics which indicate the government has so far reimbursed more than $80 million in wages – which represents less than one-tenth of its $1 billion allocation for the program.
This is an important update for Ontario employers as recent permanent legislative amendments for federal workers and workers in British Columbia have created mandatory paid sick days. At this time, Ontario appears to be sticking to its temporary program.
Extension of Infectious Disease Emergency Leave
Ontario also announced that it is extending the amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) that allow for Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) until July 30, 2022.
The regulation exempts layoffs or reduction in wages/hours from being deemed a termination of employment. Employers who temporarily lay off employees or reduce wages/hours due to COVID-19 have no obligation to provide ESA notice or severance pay.
However, the jury is still out on whether such a layoff or reduction of hours can be considered a constructive dismissal at common law. Keep a close eye on our recent articles as we follow the latest developments in this very important area of law.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.