As you may already know by now, Ontario recently introduced paid sick leave for employees in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pursuant to Bill 284, COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021, the Ontario Government amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “Act“) to provide eligible employees with up to three days of paid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (“IDEL”) for absences from work related to COVID-19.

This entitlement to paid IDEL is:

  • retroactive to April 19, 2021,
  • currently set to end on September 25, 2021, unless it is otherwise extended, and
  • is in addition to employees’ rights to unpaid IDEL.

Who is eligible to receive paid IDEL?

All employees who are covered under the Act and meet any one or more of the following criteria will be eligible for the paid IDEL:

  • going for a COVID-19 test
  • staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test
  • being sick with COVID-19
  • going to get vaccinated
  • experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination
  • having been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 by an employer, medical practitioner or other specified authority
  • providing care or support to certain relatives for COVID-19 related reasons, such as when they are:
    • sick with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19
    • self-isolating due to COVID-19 on the advice of a medical practitioner or other specified authority

How much paid IDEL are you eligible to receive?

All eligible employees are entitled to up to $200 a day for up to three days.

To be clear:

  • if your regular rate of pay is less than $200 a day, you will only receive your regular rate of pay, and
  • if your regular rate of pay is more than $200 a day, you will only receive $200 a day of paid IDEL, unless your employer provides you with a greater right or benefit, in which case you would be entitled to the greater right or benefit.

How can the paid IDEL days be taken?

The three paid IDEL days do not have to be taken consecutively.

If an employee takes any part of a day as paid leave, the employer may deem the employee to have taken one paid day of leave on that day.

Are you required to provide a doctor’s note or other evidence?

You will not be required to provide a certificate from a doctor or nurse as evidence in order to qualify for the paid IDEL.

However, if you are absent from work due to illness, your employer may require you to provide a medical note confirming it is safe for you to return to work before you will be permitted to resume regular duties.  

What if you need to be off work for a longer term?

For longer term absences from work, the Government of Canada currently offers the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (“CRSB”), which may provide federal income support benefits to employees who are not working for certain COVID-19 reasons. You may be eligible for this benefit if you need to take more than 50% of the time that you would have otherwise worked.

The CRSB is currently available until September 25, 2021.

Please visit the Government of Canada website in order to find out more about the CRSB.

Conclusion

If you are an employee and you are unsure of how this entitlement interacts with your existing rights under a contract or policy, you should seek clarification from your employer directly, preferably in writing. If you are concerned your employer is not complying with the law, we would be happy to assist you to ensure your rights are protected and you get what you are entitled to.

 If you are an employer, we can assist you with drafting, reviewing and implementing workplace policies, such as those relating to paid IDEL, so that you can comply with the law, maximize your rights and minimize your liability.

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