Over the past few weeks, several provincial governments have passed legislation to temporarily provide employees impacted by COVID-19 with varying degrees of paid, job-protected leave. The primary intent of this legislation is to provide support for employees who have no sick leave plan and are required to take time off work as a result of COVID-19 or the COVID-19 vaccination. ReedGroup has provided the following guide to the legislation, with individual entries for each affected province. We will continue to update this guide as additional provinces release legislation for COVID-19 paid leaves.
Last updated: June 3, 2021
The Ontario government has amended the Employment Standards Act to include the requirement for employers to provide three days of paid leave where:
- 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, or
- The employee is acting in accordance with a public health order.
Employers still cannot require an employee to provide a certificate from a doctor or nurse as evidence or proof to be eligible for this leave. However, employers may require evidence, reasonable in the circumstances, and at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances, that the employee is entitled to the leave. What is considered reasonable will depend on all of the facts of the situation. If it is a reasonable circumstance, evidence may take such forms as:
- A copy of the information issued to the public by a public health official advising of a quarantine or isolation.
- A copy of an order to isolate that was issued to the employee under Section 22 or Section 35 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, or,
- An email from a pharmacy or from a public health department indicating the employee’s appointment date and time to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
The employer is required to administer the leave entitlement retroactive to April 19, 2021. The leave entitlement expires on September 25, 2021.
The paid leave will provide employees up to $200 per day for up to three days. Employers can apply to the WSIB for reimbursement; however, the Ministry is providing funding to the WSIB to administer the program. The program is not a WSIB program and will not be funded by the WSIB’s insurance fund.
The application has to be made within 120 days of the payment to the employee, and no application will be accepted after January 25, 2022. Employers can access the application for reimbursement online via the WSIB website or the Ontario provincial website:
- Application link (must be filled out in one sitting, cannot be saved): https://ontario-covid19-worker-income-protection-benefit.ca/en.
- Once the claim is submitted, a confirmation with be received. The status/progress of the claim can be checked here: https://ontario-covid19-worker-income-protection-benefit.ca/en/claim-status.
The legislation requires the following:
- An attestation, to be completed by the employer in the form approved by the WSIB that,
- Confirms that the employer made a payment to the employee for paid leave taken under subsection 50.1 (1.2),
- Specifies the dates on which the leave was taken by the employee,
- Specifies the date on which the payment was made, and the amount of the payment made, and,
- Confirms that, on or after April 19, 2021, the employer was not otherwise required under an employment contract to make the payment to the employee.
- A record of the payment made to the employee in the form approved by the WSIB.
- Information about claims filed with the WSIB under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, in respect of the employee.
- Any other information required by the WSIB.
If the employee already has entitlement to paid sick leave (of at least three days) under an employment contract, the number of days provided under that contract remains in force. In other words, this does not provide additional paid sick days if the employee already has that entitlement. In this regard, the language of the bill also restricts the re-imbursement of the leave to employers who do not already provide paid sick leave.
The payments will be calculated based on the base pay only with no eligibility for premiums (e.g., shift, holiday, etc.).
The B.C. government has passed a bill that will temporarily provide employees with three days of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related circumstances. This bill came into effect on May 20, 2021, and establishes that:
- Employees are entitled to three days of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons during the period between May 20, 2021 and December 31, 2021.
- This benefit will be available if employees need to stay home because of COVID-19 due to:
- Being diagnosed with COVID-19
- Waiting for COVID-19 test results
- Needing to self-isolate or self-monitor
- Following a public health order
- Being directed to stay home by employer because of exposure risks.
- Employers cannot require a certificate from a doctor for an employee to take a COVID-19 sick day.
- Employees must be paid their full wages, with full-time and part-time employees being eligible.
- Pay is calculated by multiplying the period of leave and the average day’s pay.
- Average day’s pay is the amount paid divided by the days worked, and the amount paid is defined as the amount paid for work done and wages earned within the 30-calendar day period preceding the leave.
- The benefit is available to employees covered under the Employment Standards Act who do not already have a paid sick leave benefits plan.
- If the employer does not have an existing sick leave program, the Province will reimburse up to $200 per day, administered by WorkSafe BC.
- This is not part of the workers’ compensation system and will not impact employer premiums or its accident fund.
- The application for the COVID-19 Sick-Leave Reimbursement Program will be available on the WorkSafe online services portal on June 15th, 2021. To apply for reimbursement, employers must be:
- Registered for WorkSafe BC insurance coverage, and
- Signed up for WorkSafe BC’s employer online services in order to access the COVID-19 Sick Leave Reimbursement application.
- If not signed up already, employers can sign up now to ensure they receive reimbursement quickly.
As of January 1, 2022, the legislation will also create a permanent paid sick leave for employees who cannot work due to any injury or illness. Additional details, such as the number of paid sick days, is still being discussed with the various stakeholders and will be released in the coming months.
The Alberta government has passed a bill to create a COVID-19 Vaccination Leave. This bill amends the Employment Standards Code and outlines the following:
- Employers are required to provide employees, upon the employee’s request, up to a maximum of three consecutive hours of leave to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, or more than three consecutive hours, if in the employer’s opinion, a longer period is warranted by the circumstances.
- An employer must ensure that an employee does not lose any earnings or other benefits as a result of taking this leave.
- Before taking the leave, the employee must give the employer as much notice as is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances.
- Upon the employer’s request, the employee must, as soon as is practicable, provide reasonably sufficient proof that the employee is entitled to the leave but is not required to provide the employer with a medical certificate or record of immunization or to disclose to the employer any of the employee’s underlying medical conditions.
The Manitoba government has passed a bill that will temporarily provide employees with 5 days of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related circumstances. This bill outlines the following:
- The Pandemic Sick Leave program provides employers with up to $600 per employee for up to five full days of COVID-19 related sick leave.
- The days do not have to be taken consecutively.
- Eligible sick leave related to COVID-19 includes testing, vaccinations and side effects, self-isolation due to COVID-19 symptoms, or care for a loved one in any of the previously mentioned circumstances.
- Employers who currently provide paid sick leave to their employees are not eligible, including federal, provincial, and local governments.
- If an eligible employer offers less than five days of sick leave, they are eligible to claim employees for the difference of days between the days offered by the employer and the five-day maximum under the program.
- Employees who have exhausted paid sick leave will not be covered.
- Eligible employees are those who reside in Manitoba and work and receive wages in Manitoba on a full-time or part-time basis.
- Eligibility period is retroactive from May 7, 2021, to September 25, 2021.
- The Sick Leave Form can be filled out online after the end of the regular pay period – https://forms.gov.mb.ca/manitoba-pandemic-sick-leave/
The Saskatchewan government has passed a bill to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations to provide for a Special Vaccination Leave. This leave allows employees to take three consecutive hours to receive a COVID-19 vaccination during the workday without losing pay or other benefits. The bill further indicates:
- Workers are entitled to more than three consecutive hours if the employer determines the circumstances warrant a longer break from work.
- Employers cannot request proof of vaccination.
Prince Edward Island
The P.E.I. government has established a COVID-19 Special Leave Fund for paid sick time related to COVID-19. This program will reimburse employers and/or a self-employed person without a paid sick leave program for sick time of an employee/person who missed less than 50% of scheduled time in a one-week period. This program outlines:
- Eligible employers will be reimbursed for the scheduled time an employee misses due to:
- A COVID-19 vaccination appointment that could not be scheduled outside of work hours.
- COVID-19 testing
- Requirement to self-isolate
- Employers may apply to the program for:
- A maximum of three days per week, per employee
- Up to two, one-week periods per employee for a maximum of six days per employee
- A period with only a COVID-19 vaccination appointment for an employee will not count toward the one-week periods per employee.
- This is calculated on eligible wages paid to a maximum reimbursement of $20/hour or $160/day.
- Mandatory employer-related costs (MERC’s) are eligible (EI, CPP, WCB, etc.).
- Plus, a calculated 5% administration fee.
- Eligibility dates are from March 1, 2021, and while the province remains under a Public Health Emergency.
- Online application for reimbursement – https://services.princeedwardisland.ca/en/service/covid-19-special-leave-fund#/service/GenericWebformSubmission/GenericWebformGenerateTransactionID
The Nova Scotia government has approved a COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Program which allows for four paid sick days for COVID-19 related reasons. Applications for this program open May 26, 2021. This program outlines:
- Workers who cannot work remotely and miss less than 50% of their scheduled work time in a one-week period because of COVID-19 may be eligible, reasons include:
- Waiting to get a COVID-19 test
- Getting a COVID-19 test (must be a PCR test, not a rapid test)
- Self-isolating while waiting for test results
- Getting vaccinated
- Employers/Employees who have other sick leave benefits are not eligible, even if they have used them up.
- The sick days do not need to be taken consecutively.
- The program will cover eligible sick days taken between May 10, 2021, and July 31, 2021.
- Employers must pay their employees for the time they miss and then apply for a reimbursement through the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council.
- Payment is calculated based on the employee’s current rate of pay, up to a maximum of $20 per hour or $160 per day.
- The maximum total payment per employee is $640.
- Applications must be submitted within 90 days of when the employee was paid.
What does this mean for employers?
The outlined legislative changes have been put in place to protect employers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. For employees directly impacted by COVID-19, the provincial programs noted above provide temporary compensation until they can apply for the Canada Recovery Sick Benefit to help offset any additional loss of income.
The payment of the sick days by the Workers’ Compensation Boards will not impact the funding of that board or an employer’s premium rates. Additional information should be released shortly as to how an employer can apply for re-imbursement for the paid leave in the associated province (if not already specified). Pending this, employers should maintain a record of employees who have taken advantage of a leave and ensure that the application for re-imbursement is made within the appropriate timeline of the leave taken. Noting the current environment, we expect to see additional provinces release similar legislation shortly.
If you’re looking for assistance managing claims or to ensure compliance across your organization, ReedGroup has solutions for you. Check out our offerings here.
Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.