Updated May 3, 2021: On April 29, 2021, Ontario enacted Bill 284, COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021. In addition to the details provided below, the statute provides that:
- If on April 19, 2021, an employee's employment contract entitles them to three or more paid sick days in the same circumstances that they are entitled to paid sick days under the statute in an amount equal to or greater than the amount employee would be entitled to be paid under the statute, the employee will not be entitled to three additional paid sick days under the statute for those circumstances.
- The employee's paid leave entitlement under the statute is the lesser of $200 and the wages the employee would have earned had they not taken the leave, for up to three days.
- If an employee takes part of a day as paid leave under the statute, the employer may deem them to have taken one day of paid leave on that day for purposes of their three days of entitlement under the statute.
- An employee is entitled to take the three paid days of leave before they take unpaid leave.
- An employee will not be entitled to receive premium pay if they are entitled to paid leave under the statute on a day that they are normally eligible for overtime pay, shift premium or premium pay for a statutory holiday.
- After January 25, 2022, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board will not accept applications from an employer for reimbursement of payments it made to an employee for paid leave.
- If an employer received benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act for the days on which an employee was on paid leave, the employer will not be reimbursed for payments made to an employee for paid leave.
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On April 28, 2021, Ontario announced in a News Release that it will soon introduce legislation that, if passed, would require employers to pay employees up to $200 per day for up to three days if they miss work for reasons relating to COVID-19. Greater detail about the proposed legislation was subsequently made available on Ontario's website in a Backgrounder titled, "Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit," including the name of the proposed legislation, the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act.
If the legislation is passed, the program would be retroactive to April 19, 2021, and remain in effect until September 25, 2021.
The program would require employers to pay employees up to $200 per day for up to three days if they miss work for specific reasons relating to COVID-19, including because they are:
- Taking a COVID-19 test;
- Staying home waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test;
- Sick with COVID-19;
- Getting vaccinated;
- Experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination;
- Self-isolating due to COVID-19 because they have been advised to by an employer, medical practitioner, or other authority to do so; or
- Taking care of a dependent who is:
- Sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19; or
- Self-isolating due to COVID-19
The three days' paid leave need not be taken consecutively.
The paid leave will only be available to employees who:
- Are covered by the Employment Standards Act; and
- Do not already receive paid sick time through their employer.
Independent contractors and federally regulated employees would not qualify for paid leave under the legislation.
Doctor's or Nurse's Note
Employers would not be permitted to require an employee to provide a certificate from a doctor or nurse as evidence of their entitlement to paid leave.
Eligible employers would be able to apply for a reimbursement from the government of up to $200 per paid leave day taken by an employee.
If an employee's regular rate of pay is less than $200 per day, reimbursement to the employer would be no more than the employee's regular rate of pay.
Applications for reimbursement must be made within 120 days of the paid leave.
The News Release indicated that Ontario will partner with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to deliver the program and reimburse employers.
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit
For longer absences from work, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) has been offered by the federal government from September 27, 2020 until September 25, 2021, to employees and self-employed individuals. To qualify, the employee or self-employed individual must, among other things, be unable to work 50% of their scheduled work week because:
- They are sick with COVID-19;
- They need to self-isolate due to COVID-19; or
- They have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19.
Those eligible for the CRSB can receive $500 for a one-week period for a maximum of four weeks, which need not be taken consecutively.
Employees are not eligible for the CRSB if:
- They are receiving paid leave from their employer for the same period; or
- They are receiving any of the following for the same
- Canada Recovery Benefit;
- Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit;
- Short-term disability benefits;
- Employment Insurance benefits; or
- Québec Parental Insurance Plan benefits.
Ontario has offered to provide funding to the federal government to double CRSB payments to eligible Ontario residents, adding an additional $500 per week to eligible individuals for a total of $1,000 per week. In its News Release, Ontario stated, "Combined with the province's proposed three days of paid COVID-19 leave, doubling the CRSB would provide Ontario workers with access to the most generous pandemic paid leave in the country."
Bottom Line for Employers
As the legislation is not yet in force, employees are not currently entitled to the paid leave described above. We will be following the progress of the proposed legislation and providing additional information when it becomes available.
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.