On April 29, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced that it would introduce new legislation that would provide for three (3) paid sick days for employees impacted by COVID-19.
The legislation, entitled the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, will grant three paid days to eligible employees in the following circumstances:
- going for a COVID-19 test;
- staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test;
- being sick with 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 authority; and
- taking care of a dependent who is:
- sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19; or
- is self-isolating due to COVID-19.
The program will be administered by the province’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. While totalling three days of paid leave, the leave does not need to be taken consecutively. The program will be retroactive to April 19 and will end on September 25, the same date that the federal government’s Canada Recovery and Sickness Benefit is set to expire.
The program will require employers to pay employees up to $200 a day in the event the employee is required to be absent from work due to COVID-19 for the reasons set out above. The Ontario government would then fully reimburse employers through the WSIB system.
Doctor’s notes will not be required to qualify for these three paid sick days.
This program is not yet in force and employees are not currently entitled to take this leave. However, given the expected retroactivity of the compensation system, employers should plan their payroll obligations accordingly. Further details of the program are expected to be forthcoming, but no legislation has officially been introduced at the time of publishing this update.