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May 4, 2021

Paid Sick Leave for Employees in Response to COVID-19

The Government of Ontario has responded to pressure by the public and health care professionals to provide paid sick leave to employees during the pandemic. Bill 284, COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021 was passed on April 29, 2021 providing up to three days of paid sick leave for reasons relating to COVID-19.

Bill 284 amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), and entitles employees to paid sick leave in the following circumstances:

  • The employee is under medical investigation, supervision, or treatment due to COVID-19
    • This includes taking time to go receive the vaccine, and recovering from any vaccination side effects
  • The employee is in quarantine, isolation, or is subject to a control that was directed by a public health official, their employer, a health practitioner, Telehealth Ontario, or another government official
  • The employee is providing care to a dependent who is:
    • Sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19
    • In quarantine, isolation, or subject to another control measure due to COVID-19
  • The employee is acting in accordance with an order under section 22 or 35 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act

Employees can claim paid sick leave under the Act between April 19, 2021 and September 25, 2021. A doctor’s note is not required, and the three days do not need to be used consecutively. Employees should be aware that if they take a half-day off work, it will be deemed to count as a full day of leave.

Employees will receive their regular wages as compensation, up to a limit of $200 per day. If the employee’s contract already provides for paid sick leave, they cannot claim the three days under the ESA in addition to their existing rights. However, if their contract only provides for one or two days of paid sick leave, they may claim the difference.

Employers can seek reimbursement from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board for leave payments made under the ESA, up to a maximum of $200 per day for each employee. Employers should be mindful that the application for reimbursement must be made within 120 days of payment to the employee.

This will be a welcomed implementation for families and individuals who are grappling to manage the financial implications of COVID-19 while caring for their health and loved ones.

co-written by articling student Kate Allington

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