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After mounting pressure and calls for minimum sick days, the provincial government has announced the Putting Workers First Act to be introduced on April 29, 2021. The new legislation will require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid leave if they have to take time off because of specific reasons related to COVID-19.

How it works

If you are an “employee” as defined under the Employment Standards Act and you do not already receive paid sick time through your employer, you can receive up to 3 days off work, for up to $200/day, in order to:

  • get a COVID-19 test
  • await results of a COVID-19 test while staying home
  • recover from COVID-19
  • get vaccinated against COVID-19
  • recover from a COVID-19 vaccination side effect
  • self-isolate due to COVID-19 (under direction from an employer, medical practitioner, or other authority)
  • care for a dependent who is sick with COVID-19 or self-isolating due to COVID-19

The benefit is available from April 19th, 2021 (retroactively) until September 25th, 2021. Employees do not have to take the 3 days off consecutively, and do not need to provide a doctor’s note.

After providing employees with paid leave, the employer can then apply for reimbursement which will be administered through WSIB.

How will the new benefit interact with existing CRSB?

The new legislation will require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid leave if they have to take time off because of specific reasons related to COVID-19.

Another key question for many is how the new COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit will interact with the existing Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). While the new three paid sick days under the Worker Income Protection Benefit may help employees who need to take a day off to get vaccinated or recover from side effects, employees who need to self-isolate for full two weeks will likely still have to rely on CRSB.

A federal benefit administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the CRSB is designed to provide income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work because they are sick 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.

To be eligible for the CRSB (which also runs until September 25, 2021):

  • You must be at least 15 years old with a valid SIN and a resident in Canada;
  • You must have total employment or self-employment income of $5,000 in the past 12 months (with some exceptions); and,
  • You must be unable to work at employment or self-employment for at least 50% of the week due to: having COVID-19, having an illness that makes you more susceptible to COVID-19, or needing to self-isolate.

This benefit provides eligible recipients $500 a week up for 4 weeks, but employees must reapply each week that they want to receive the CRSB.

Ontario has proposed topping up the CRSB to $1,000 a week for qualifying CRSB recipients in the province, in order to try and increase uptake on the program (which to date has been fairly low). It remains to be seen whether Ottawa will agree to implement this top-up for Ontario CRSB applicants.

How we can help

We know that navigating the current COVID-19 benefit system is difficult. If you have questions about COVID-19 benefit eligibility, employee rights, or employer obligations, contact our intake team or give our free employment law helpline a call.

Author(s)

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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