The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many governments around the world to re-examine employee sick leave protections, and Canada is no exception.

Federal Bill C-19, Budget Implementation Act, 2022, No. 1 (“Bill C-19”) received Royal Assent on June 23, 2022. Bill C-19 includes important amendments to the Canada Labour Code (the “CLC”) that will result in increased leave costs for many federally regulated employers.

Specifically, Bill C-19 further amends the paid medical leave of absence provisions that were previously included in Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code.

The new paid medical leave provisions in Bill C-19 provide as follows:

  • Employees will be entitled to three (3) days of paid medical leave after thirty (30) days of continuous employment.
  • Employees will earn one further paid day at the start of each month after completing one month of continuous employment, up to a maximum of ten (10) paid days per calendar year.
  • Any days of medical leave with pay that an employee does not take in a calendar year will carry forward to the next calendar year, and each day carried over reduces the number of days that can be earned in that next year by one.
  • An employer may also require, through a written request made within fifteen (15) days after the employee’s return to work, that the employee provide a medical certificate for any period of medical leave of at least five (5) consecutive days.
  • Employees who change employers due to a contract retendering or a lease or transfer of a business are deemed to be continuously employed and carry over their medical leave entitlements to the new employer.

We should stress several other important points.

First, Bill C-19 is set to come into force on December 1, 2022.

Second, it will only apply to federal employers with 100 or more employees as of December 1. This limitation could be repealed in the future due to political pressure arising from the current “confidence-and-supply” arrangement between the Liberal minority government and the NDP.

Third, to give this legislation national context, the new medical leave provisions will provide federally regulated employees with greater benefits than all provincially regulated employees.[1] For example, earlier this year, British Columbia became the first province to mandate a minimum of five (5) paid sick days per year. Meanwhile, Ontario currently has a pandemic program offering employees three (3) days of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related absences. The Ontario government recently extended that program to the end of March 2023.