Proposed Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit
On April 28, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced it will provide a provincial paid sick leave program to help curb the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces across Ontario.
Announced by the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development and the Minister of Finance, the proposed program is set to be called the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit.
If the legislation is passed, it will require employers to pay employees up to $200 per day, for up to three days, if they are sick or need time off to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Employers will be required to pay such employees directly and obtain reimbursement through the provincial Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. As such, employees will not be required to provide medical notes or submit a form or application themselves.
As currently proposed, the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit will be retroactive from April 19, 2021 and continue until September 25, 2021.
Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit
At the same time as this announcement, the Ontario Government also indicated that it would continue to work with the Canadian Government on increasing the payments available under the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (“CRSB”).
As it exists, the CRSB currently provides workers, including employees and the self-employed, with income support if they are unable to work because they are sick or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19. Eligible workers can receive $500, or $450 after taxes withheld, for a one-week period under the program. Where necessary, workers can re-apply if the situation continues past one week, though there is a limit of four weeks. The benefits were opened on September 27, 2020 and continue to September 25, 2021.
Infectious Disease Emergency Leave
Additionally, under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, employees are entitled to the infectious disease emergency leave, which is an unpaid job-protected leave for employees who are not performing the duties of their position because they are:
- under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19;
- acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act or under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020;
- in isolation or quarantine or acting in accordance with public health information or direction;
- directed by the employer not to work due to a concern that the employee could spread COVID-19 in the workplace;
- providing care or support to a specified individual for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or child care closure or where an employee does not send their child to school or to child care because of a concern that the child will come into contact with COVID-19;
- prevented from returning to Ontario because of travel restrictions.
Employees who take this leave are not required to show a medical note as proof of entitlement for the leave. The leave is retroactive to January 25, 2020.
Declared Emergency Leave
Ontario also provides a declared emergency leave under the Employment Standards Act, which allows employees to take an unpaid, job-protected leave during a declared emergency if:
- they will not be performing the duties of their position due to an emergency, and
- certain circumstances apply, including where the employee must take care of a family member or relative.
Ontario declared a third emergency on April 7, 2021 under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act because of COVID-19, which applies to the entire province of Ontario. As such, employees can currently access the leave. There is no set limit on the number of days an eligible employee can take as declared emergency leave.
If you are an employee concerned about the legality of workplace policies, or an employer looking to ensure you stay compliant with health and safety regulations as they relate to COVID-19, contact the offices of Guelph employment lawyer Peter McSherry. We regularly assist employees with employment and labour issues. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule a consultation.