Paid sick days: Hocus Pocus – Poof…
- Ontario announces paid sick days through the Workers Income Protection Benefit – but no one’s seen their magic trick (yet): Yesterday the Province announced three (3) paid sick days for all employees who need to take time off from work and for reasons related to COVID-19. The catch however is that this is not (yet) available.
- What exactly did yesterday’s announcement say: Effectively, the Province is in the process of preparing legislation that will provide workers with up to three (3) days of paid sick leave and for reasons related to COVID-19. Furthermore, the Province announced that it was continuing in its efforts to work with the Federal Government to top up the existing four-week program of $500 per week and under the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (“CRSB”), hoping to bring this to a total of $1000 per week, however these discussions are still in progress. Accordingly, yesterday’s announcement was nothing more than a previous statement of intent that was made by the Province, but with a few more details.
No Legislation yet, but if passed, what is it expected to say?
- How much is the paid sick leave expected to pay? Employees will be entitled to receive up to $200 per day, or their actual daily wage, whichever is lower and for a period of three (3) days.
- Why three (3) days? This likely to plug the gap before an employee becomes eligible for Federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (“CRSB”), meaning no loss of income for the employee.
- Who is expected to qualify for the three (3) days of paid sick leave? Current information suggests that the paid sick leave will be available for reasons related to COVID-19 and will include time off: o where an employee is directed to isolate;
- where an employee is taking care of a dependent who is sick with COVID-19 or where the dependent is required to self-isolate
- due to illness related to COVID-19;
- to take a COVID-19 test;
- while awaiting the results of a test;
- to receive a vaccine; and
- if experiencing side effects from a vaccine;
It was also announced that this paid sick leave may even be available if an employee requires a mental health day and for reasons related to COVID-19, making it near impossible for employers to assess whether a request qualifies for sick pay or not, or whether things such as seasonal allergies will now be used to justify the entitlement where before, these employees would have been requried to come to work.
- How will the three (3) paid sick days be administered? The Province will administer this through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”), however it is unclear how this will apply to employers who are otherwise exempt from registering with the WSIB. Furthermore, it appears that employers will be required to fund the paid sick days upfront, resulting in no delay to employees, but potentially creating a cash flow issue for employers who will have to be reimbursed by the Province thereafter. Currently, no information has been released as to how long the reimbursement process will take, save for the fact that employers will have 120 days to claim any amounts paid out.
- Will a doctor’s note be required to take the three (3) paid sick days? No, it appears that the legislation (if passed) will exempt employees from needing to provide a doctor’s note, making it difficult to police instances of abuse.
- For what period of time, will the three (3) paid sick days be available: If passed, the legislation is set to provide for retroactive payments from April 19, 2021 to September 25, 2021.
- Who will not qualify for the three (3) paid sick days? Employees who already receive or are entitled to paid sick leave through their employer, will not be entitled to receive the benefit, nor will independent contractors or any other workers not covered by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”). Accordingly, federally regulated employees will also be disqualified from claiming the three (3) paid sick days.
Federal and Provincial deal may provide for up to 20 paid sick days through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (“CRSB”)
- The Province also announced that it is still in talks with the Federal Government to top up the existing Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (“CRSB”), which already provides up to $500 per week for up to four weeks, by offering to top this up to a total of $1000 per week for eligible employees. However, and to date, the Federal Government has resisted this proposal and talks are still ongoing.
- Concerns: If the deal goes ahead, employees could potentially apply for paid sick time through the CRSB and without a doctor’s note, and upon qualifying, receive up to $4000 in their “sick” month. For many employees, this may prove attractive given that they may not earn $4000 in a particular month and opening up the process to abuses, especially as summer rolls in and numbers continue to remain high, it appears that employers will be hard pressed to identify and/or prevent opportunistic employees.
- Exclusions from the CRSB: Will include employees who are in receipt of STD benefits, EI, the Canada Recovery Benefit (“CRB”) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (“CRCB”).
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