Ontario extends paid sick days program

COVID-related changes to temporary layoff rules also given new deadline

Ontario extends paid sick days program

Ontario is extending its Worker Income Protection Benefit program, which provides paid sick days, until July 31, 2022.

The government says it wants to continue keeping workers safe and ensure they do not lose pay if they need to miss work for reasons related to COVID-19.

Employees can access the leave to get tested, vaccinated, self-isolate or care for a family member.

“Nearly a quarter-million workers have already used our program, which is the first and most comprehensive in the country, for paid time off work,” says Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “Our government is working for workers and ensuring they have the support they need to keep themselves and their families safe.”

Following up on a promise first made back in 2020, Ottawa introduced legislation in November 2021 that would amend the Canada Labour Code to provide 10 days of paid sick leave per year to workers in the federally regulated private sector.

Well-used program

Ontario first introduced paid COVID-19 days in April 2021 as part of the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021. Employers provide employees with up to $200 of pay for up to three days.

So far, more than 235,000 people have used the program, for a total of 515,000 paid leave days. The average number of days being claimed per employee is two. Employers have 120 days after their employees are paid to submit their application to the Worker Income Protection Benefit Program.

Governments – such as British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – have stepped up to provide sickness leaves amid the pandemic.

But this does not cover the fact that there are flaws in the system, says Leah Vosko, professor at York University.

In April 2021, Ontario’s Conservatives voted down a new provision in the employment standards that would have provided up to 10 paid days of leave per year for personal illnesses, injuries or medical emergencies and illnesses, injuries, medical emergencies and certain urgent matters experienced by specified family members.

Temporary layoffs

In addition, the province is extending temporary changes to the Employment Standards Act that prevent temporary layoffs of non-unionized employees from becoming unwanted terminations until July 30, 2022.

The changes were first introduced in June 2020 and then extended in December 2021.

The regulatory amendment put non-unionized workers on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave during the COVID-19 outbreak any time their hours of work are temporarily reduced and protect businesses from incurring unsustainable termination costs.

Originally, under the act, temporary layoffs become terminations when they exceed the permitted period.

But Ontario courts disagree on IDEL and constructive dismissal, says one Ontario lawyer.

Both British Columbia and Manitoba also amended their employment standards around job-protected leaves.

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