Ontario Has Introduced a New COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Program

The new program will be called the COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit. The program will be retroactive to April 19, 2021 and effective until September 25, 2021. Section 50.1 of the ESA has been amended on April 29, 2021 to include the program, under the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021. The program will require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid leave because of specific reasons related to COVID-19. These reasons include the following:

  1. Going for a COVID-19 test;
  2. Staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test;
  3. Being sick with COVID-19;
  4. Going to get vaccinated;
  5. Experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination;
  6. Having been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 by an employer, medical practitioner or other authority;
  7. Taking care of a dependent who is:
    1. sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19; and
    2. self-isolating due to COVID-19.

Employees will be eligible for the paid sick program if they are covered under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000 c.41, and do not already receive sick pay through their employer.

In order to qualify, a doctor’s note is not required. Further, it should be noted that while employers would have to initially pay for this leave, employers would qualify for a reimbursement of up to $200.00 per employee per day paid. In order to qualify for the reimbursement, employers will be required to make their application within 120 days. WSIB will be administering the reimbursement program, and the application for reimbursement will need to include:

  1. A completed application in the form approved by the Board;
  2. An attestation by the employer that, the payment was made to an employee for the leave taken under 50.1, specifying the date on which the payment was made, and confirming that the employer was not required under an employment contract to make the payment;
  3. A record that the payment was made to the employee; and
  4. Information about claims filed with the Board.

If you have any questions about these changes to the ESA and your obligations, please contact us.