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”). Employers will be required to pay eligible employees up to $200 of pay for up to three days if they are missing work because of COVID-19. Employers will then be eligible to apply to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) for reimbursement. 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. Below, we will outline some of the key features of the program as they apply to both employees and employers.
Who is Eligible to Receive Paid Leave Under Bill 284?
The benefit will be available to eligible employees who do not currently receive paid sick days from their employer. 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;
- Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 or experiencing side effects of a vaccine;
- Getting tested and/or awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test;
- 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 a 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 with a public health order.
A doctor’s note will not be required as evidence of any of the above factors.
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 amount of Paid Leave the employee is entitled to receive under this Act will be reduced by the employee’s entitlement under their employment contract.
Note that Paid Leave under this Bill is applicable to employees covered by the Employment Standards Act, meaning employees in the following categories will not be eligible:
- Federally-regulated employees
- Independent contractors
- Student interns who are part of a program offered by a college or university
How Will Paid Leave be Calculated Under Bill 284?
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 $200.00 per day or 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.
Employers Will be Reimbursed by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
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.
The WSIB has indicated that the full details regarding the reimbursement application process for employers will be made available soon.
A Reminder About CRSB: Canada’s Recovery Sickness Benefit
In addition to the paid sick leave discussed above, employees should also consider the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). The CRSB gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work if they become infected or need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, or have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting COVID-19. The CRSB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Note that employees may not be eligible to receive CRSB if they are already receiving benefits under any of the following programs:
- Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
- Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)
- short-term disability benefits
- Employment Insurance (EI) benefits
- Québec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) benefits
The benefit currently offers qualified individuals a payment of $500 per week ($450 after taxes are withheld). However, the Ontario government is currently working with the Federal Government to double the $500 per week benefit to $1,000. Once approved, individuals must reapply each week they wish to continue receiving the benefit.
Contact Ottawa Employment Lawyers Tierney Stauffer LLP
Our employment law lawyers can help employers understand their obligations and ensure compliance under the newly enacted Bill 284 and assist employees who believe they have been unfairly denied benefits from their employer related to COVID-19. To discuss your matter with a member of our employment team, contact Tierney Stauffer LLP in Ottawa & Eastern Ontario at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.