The government of Ontario announced a program today for paid sick days which will be created through a new bill that will be introduced on April 29, 2021.
In essence, the government is creating a “Workers Protection Benefit” that will allow for qualified workers to receive three paid sick days (total) for full and part-time positions. These days can be used by employees if they have symptoms, to get vaccinated or to care for others, without the requirement of a sick note. The program will be administered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, with employers being reimbursed up to $200 per day (for a maximum of $600 per worker). Employers apply through an online platform where they will need to submit an attestation along with other supporting documents. The application must be submitted within four months from the time of the leave and reimbursement will be done by mail.
This program will run until September 25, 2021 and will be retroactive to April 19, 2021. It is important to note that if an employee is already eligible for paid sick days through their employer, the provincial program will not apply to those days, as it is meant for employees without a current leave benefit.
Last week, Ontario’s Finance Minister wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister and federal Finance Minister with a proposal to have the provincial government provide a $500-per-week top-up to the current $500-per-week ($450 after tax withholding) Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) program. People can access CRSB for up to four weeks if they are required to quarantine because of COVID-19. The federal government’s position on Tuesday was that the CRSB is meant to be a measure for those who “fall through the cracks” because there are no benefits through their employers or in provinces where there isn’t a provincial program. On Wednesday, the federal government signalled its openness to doubling payments through the federal program. Although the top up was not yet approved by the Government of Canada at the time of today’s announcement, the province made it clear that this component of the plan is expected to be forthcoming shortly.
RCC’s Public Response
Employees should not feel compelled to go to work if they are unwell. The government’s financial support for a solution to this problem is a vitally important element. We commend the Ontario government for creating a situation-appropriate model. We hope to see the federal component take shape over the days ahead as this will solidify a more comprehensive option for employees.
RCC is hopeful that the current challenges with the federal program, such as processing delays, will be addressed. In order for this plan to be successful, any paid sick day program must be fully and immediately accessible to workers who need it with a quick and seamless reimbursement for employers.
The web page for this program is ontario.ca/covidsickdays. The information centre hotline can be reached at 1-888-999-2248.
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