Ontario Enacts Legislation Providing Three Paid Sick Days for COVID-19 Related Reasons

On April 29, 2021 the Ontario Government enacted Bill 284, COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021 (“the Act”) which introduced Infectious Disease Emergency Leave Pay (“Paid Leave”). Employees will now be eligible to receive up to three paid days for COVID-19 related reasons.

The Paid Leave will be administered by the employer and will be applied retroactively starting from April 19, 2021, and will expire on September 25, 2021.  The employer will be required to pay eligible workers up to $200.00 a day for up to three days. Employers will then be eligible to apply to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) for reimbursement.

An employee will be deemed eligible for the Paid Leave if they meet one or more of the following circumstances:

  • the employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment of COVID-19, which includes receiving a vaccine;
  • the employee is required to quarantine or isolate as a result of information or direction by a public health official, qualified health practitioner, Telehealth Ontario, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada, municipal council or a board of health;
  • the employee is under direction given by his or her employer in response to a concern that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to COVID-19;
  • the employee is providing care or support to a family member (as defined in the Employment Standards Act)who has COVID-19 or is required to isolate due to COVID-19;
  • the employee is acting in accordance to a public health order

If, as of April 19, 2021, the employee is entitled to take paid sick leave under an employment contract for any of the circumstances outlined above, the number of Paid Leave the employee is entitled to receive under this Act will be reduced by the employee’s entitlement under his / her employment contract.  Therefore, if an employer already provides three or more paid sick days that cover the above noted conditions, the Act does not grant the employee with three additional Paid Leave entitlements.

Paid Leave under the Act will be calculated and paid out by using the employee’s regular rate of pay.  Employees will be paid the lesser of $200 / day and the wages the employee would have earned had they not taken the leave.  

If the Paid Leave falls on a day that the employee is normally eligible for overtime pay, shift premium or premium pay for a statutory holiday, the employee will not be eligible to receive such premium pay. 

Employees are entitled to take the three Paid Leave days before they take unpaid leave.

The WSIB will reimburse employers for payments made to an employee for Paid Leave up to a maximum of $200.00 per day, per employee. An employer is not entitled to be reimbursed for payments made to an employee for Paid Leave if the employee received benefits under the Workplace Safety and insurance Act for the days of leave.

The employer can receive reimbursement by completing an application and filling it with the WSIB. The application for reimbursement must be made within 120 days of the payment to the employee. No application will be accepted by the WSIB after January 25, 2022.

If you have any questions about this matter, other COVID-19 related issues, or would like any other workplace law assistance, please contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s COVID-19 website resources.

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