Ontario, Canada Announces it Will Introduce Paid COVID-19 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. 

Eligibility

The paid leave will only be available to employees who:

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. 

Government Reimbursement

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 period:
    • 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. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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