In April this year, Ontario launched the COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit which temporarily provides three days of paid sick leave for reasons relating to COVID-19
In April this year, Ontario launched the COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit, which temporarily provides three days of paid sick leave for reasons relating to COVID-19 (full list available here).
The new leave is not unprecedented, in fact there is already something in place called the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL), which was passed in the early days of COVID-19. This provides job protected (unpaid) leave for employees who need to quarantine, take care of a family member, etc., says Meghan A. Cowan, Partner, Aird & Berlis.
“This new paid portion was a response to a significant movement with respect to individuals who felt that vaccination efforts needed to be supported through a paid mechanism,” says Michael F. Horvat, Partner, Aird & Berlis, “that employees should not be held at a loss when they are being encouraged to take the time to get a vaccine, or to support a spouse or a parent getting a vaccine.”
How it works
So what exactly do these new paid sick days entail?
Essentially, if you already have paid sick leave under your current policy or your collective agreement, you won’t double up on paid sick leave days. In fact, this new paid sick leave may only affect a small number of workplaces, as many larger companies or those that are unionized often already give paid leave to their employees.
“Employers who already provide paid sick time to their employees will not have to provide this as an additional benefit,” says Horvat.
Furthermore, for eligible employers, the paid leave is capped at $200 or your normal day’s wage (whichever is lower) – employees who make more on the day will not get more than $200 as compensation. Employer recovery for payments are made through the WSIB.
Lastly, this change is temporary – the three days of paid sick leave will end on September 25 (and are retroactive to April 19). This coincides with the expected end of the COVID-19-related orders that are currently in place in Ontario.
“The new paid sick leave is very much tied to COVID-19, so it is unlikely that this is something that will stick around in the long-term,” says Cowan.
It has now been a couple of months since the paid days were implemented, and Horvat says that he has not heard very many complaints about the system, which seems to be running smoothly so far.
Horvat mentions that there have been some issues around timing – notably whether these new days are in addition to or concurrent with any existing paid time off that a company provided prior to the changes. For example, what if an employee got ill with COVID-19 at the start of the year and used all their paid leave, but now wants to get the vaccine – is that person entitled or not to more paid sick leave?
Furthermore, as no doctor’s note is required, some companies may have trouble tracking employee claims – especially if they are working from home.
Essentially though, as the sick leave will be short-lived, these issues will also be short-lived.