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Ontario to introduce paid COVID-19 sick leave

The Ontario government plans to reimburse employers for each employee, up to three paid leave days that are related to COVID-19.

While it continues to work with the federal government to further support vulnerable workers by doubling payments made through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) program, it plans to introduce legislation that, if passed, will offer up to three paid sick days per employee.

If passed, legislation would require employers to provide employees with up to $200 pay for each of up to three days if they are missing work because of COVID-19. The program would be retroactive to April 19, 2021 and effective until Sept. 25, the date the CRSB will expire.

COVID-19 without placing extra burden on ailing businesses during a difficult time,” said Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith. “This meaningful support will ensure more people stay at home and reduce the spread of highly-contagious variants.”

The access to paid leave days, the province states, will help employees pay bills as they help stop the spread of the virus, including by getting tested, waiting for their results in isolation or going to get their vaccine. The province would partner with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to deliver the program and reimburse employers.

“Our government has long advocated for the federal government to enhance the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program to better protect the people of Ontario, especially our tireless essential workers,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “It is a tremendously positive step that the federal government has signaled their willingness to continue discussions on the CRSB. Now we can fix the outstanding gap in the federal program so workers can get immediate support and can stay home when needed.”

The province has also offered to provide funding to the federal government to double CRSB payments to Ontario residents, adding an additional $500 per week to eligible individuals for a total of $1,000 per week. Combined with the province’s proposed three days of paid COVID-19 leave, doubling the CRSB, he said, would provide Ontario workers with access to the most generous pandemic paid leave in the country.

“The government of Canada and Ontario have done a historic job delivering the Safe Restart Agreement last year,” stated Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board, in a media release. “New provincial funding would allow eligible individuals to receive a total of $1,000 per week through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program if missing work because of COVID-19.”

If an eligible worker learns that they must isolate for longer than 50 per cent of the time they would have otherwise worked for the week, whether because of a positive COVID-19 test or risk of exposure, they may apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CSRB) if they haven’t taken a paid leave day under this proposal.

Amid concern the CRSB accessibility criteria for days missed limited access to the program, the funding not being enough to address lost wages, and delays in payment, Smith says the provincial government advocated to the federal government to fix the program, rather than requiring provinces to duplicate it.

“With the generous financial commitment the federal government made, we felt it made sense to focus on improving that program, rather than recreating it – something no province had done. That would have allowed provinces to focus their resources on improving our health-care capacity and other measures to prevent further spread,” said Smith. “When those changes didn’t occur, our government moved to fill the gaps and provide that support for workers and their families.”

Employers and their workers can call a dedicated COVID-19 Sick Days Information Centre hotline at 1-888-999-2248 or visit Ontario.ca/COVIDworkerbenefit to get more information and updates about the proposed Ontario COVID-19 paid leave days.

The province continues to visit workplaces to ensure they are adhering to COVID-19 safety requirements.

Since the beginning of 2021, occupational health and safety inspectors and multi-ministry teams of provincial offences officers have conducted more than 21,900 COVID-19-related workplace inspections and investigations across the province. During these visits, more than 17,260 orders and more than 520 COVID-19-related tickets have been issued, and unsafe work related to COVID-19 has been stopped 35 times.

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  1. Kevin says:

    Border crossings and international travel are the PC’s red herrings before an election. As far a Ontario is concerned, a well informed Ford should have nipped this in the bud before the Christmas lockdown.

  2. Jamie Blemkie says:

    There were ways around international travel and many took advantage of the situation. This is one of the largest contributing factors that got us where we are today. That and open boarders. We still managed to bring over 184,000 immigrants in Canada in 2020. I’m not against immigration but that certainly should have been halted until things were under control. There was also no mandatory testing for international travel prior to February 2021. What took so long for this to happen? Speaking of March 2020, I believe that was about the time our Prime Minister and his family were returning from another photo op overseas and brought the virus back with them.
    I agree, the province has not handled things any better but it was the Federal government who dropped the ball on this one.

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    I am not certain how the spreading of variants became involved in an article on COVID Sick Leave, but some have managed to do it. As we know, Canada closed its borders to foreign travel in March of 2020. The only people allowed to cross into our country were essential workers and Canadian citizens. The people coming and going on our airlines are those people – not foreign tourist. For more than a year, these people have to be tested at the place they are departing from and again once they arrive here in Canada. The problem takes place with those Canadians who end run the system by not isolating – thus spreading the virus and the variants. What I find disturbing is how quickly people want to point the finger of blame (assuming they are foreigners) and unknowingly promote an intolerant society. As a country we are doing pretty darn good, but in my opinion Ontario should have instituted Paid Sick Leave months ago – look at the number of lives it would have saved.

  4. JCM says:

    There were flights coming in from India a least twice a day, flights from Brazil, and Europe. All places that have the new variant that is highly contagious and more deadly. These passengers couldn’t all be Canadians returning home.
    There has been over 500 people who came into Canada and did not take a test and said they would isolate at home and paid the fine to do so. Some were not followed up by authorities. The variants arrived in Canada due to international travellers.

  5. Henri Garand says:

    It’s difficult to keep the focus on a single COVID-related story when broad-brush political criticisms invite wider responses.

    The COVID pandemic has revealed problems with long-term care, not just in Ontario, but in many other provinces. Remember that Quebec had to call in military support when low staffing at one home left many residents unattended. In Ontario the early stage of the pandemic exposed systemic issues in lax inspection, which had developed during several successive (Liberal?) governments. Perhaps the pandemic will at least have the beneficial effect of improving long-term care, especially in private facilities.

    But paid sick days would probably not have saved many lives at the beginning of the pandemic when so much was uncertain and in dispute. Recall that Dr. Tam at first was telling people masks were not necessary, flights from Wuhan were admitted, and the Trudeau government sent PPE supplies to China. And who would have cared for residents if LTC staff had taken paid sick leave?

    A lot of the early mistakes were due to Canada’s troubled geopolitical relations with both China and the U.S.A. It’s simplistic thinking to suggest that anything any provincial government could have done would have averted the mess we are still in as result of continuing federal mismanagement of the crisis.

    As for the wonderful vaccine rollout, consider that Canada is engaged in a great public health experiment by extending the interval between first and second doses from the developers’ recommended 2-3 weeks to the politically manipulative delay of FOUR months. According to CNN (Covid-19 vaccine tracker: View vaccinations by country (cnn.com), this puts Canada somewhere between 60th and 70th place among the countries that have fully vaccinated citizens. The list of those ahead of Canada includes, as you might expect, many small island countries like Montserrat (site of recent volcanic explosions), but it also includes the U.S.A (31.6% vaccinated), most European countries (9-10%), Mexico (6%), and even Azerbaijan (5.3%). Canada has 3% of the population fully protected from COVID viruses.

    This makes the dispute over paid sick leave seem trivial, doesn’t it?

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    I have to wonder if people have read the article – it is not about international travel, nor vaccine roll out- it is about the new provincial sick leave plan. This particular issue has been a topic of discussion for months and the Ford government ignored it – despite what his own Science Advisory Table recommended. The only time when LTC homes came into this discussion is when related to the PSW staff – who up until now have had to work when sick – which may account for almost half of all deaths in Ontario – numbering just over 8000 LTC seniors. Since LTC homes are 100% a provincial responsibility, the Ontario government has a lot to answer for.

    As a side note, other than essential workers, the only other international travelers coming into Canada have been Canadian vacationers. I agree they should have stayed home.

  7. Bruce Nicholson says:

    Ontario is a large province , both geographically and by population. 500,000 vaccines in reserve is misleading. Vaccines have been distributed across the province to allow regional healthcare authorities to schedule and deliver vaccination appointments. Vaccines that have not been utilized/injected means that they are the inventory to fill those upcoming scheduled appointments.
    The diversion of vaccines from “non-hot spots” to those designated as “hot spots” was at the appeal of health experts. PEC is not being sacrificed unfairly.
    I agree with Henri on the subject of travel. We still allow a ridiculous number of non-essential travellers to this country.

  8. Michelle says:

    Blame for Long Term Health Care can be shared by several governments of different stripes. And it is fairly certain the Covid Variants striking us now were introduced by international travel to Canada.

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    As I have stated prior, Ontario’s sick leave program is nothing more than a last minute gesture and the Ford government ignored their own Science Advisory Table recommendations to implement it much earlier. This would have saved lives. As the Auditor General recent comments prove – this same government reacted far too late and without conviction to help the people it serves – both employees and the residents of LTC homes.

    As we well know, Ontario’s huge pandemic numbers do not originate from off shore visitors – SCIENCE has shown that our numbers are generated here inside the province. Compared to most countries, Canada’s vaccine rollout has been very good. Despite our Premier’s comments, not even Ontario has been short of vaccine. PEC has been because the Ford government decided to redirect 50% of our supply to Toronto. By all news sources, Ontario at it lowest point still had 500,000 vaccines in reserve – go figure!

  10. Henri Garand says:

    Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore are the democratic countries which have dealt most successively with the pandemic, and they did so by a combination of closing borders and lockdowns. The Atlantic Provinces have also controlled the pandemic better than other regions of Canada by closing borders and lockdowns. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has delayed repeatedly in stopping flights from the source of the virus and from the many countries with variant strains. Most travelers have passed through Pearson Airport.

    Disputes over sick days are just another distraction from the federal government’s ongoing failure to take effective preventative measures and to provide regular supplies of vaccine.

  11. ADJ says:

    It would be a nice change if all the political parties worked together at this time instead of pointing fingers and finding things to complain about. Now is not the time.

  12. Dennis Fox says:

    I’m not sure if three days is enough to help the people who need it, or enough time to change the direction of the COVID spread. If this was a program that was going to end up being paid for by the taxpayers, one can only wonder why Ford complained about it being a hardship on business people and why he didn’t implement it months ago? I wonder too about how many could have been saved from becoming sick if a sick leave plan was implemented sooner, as his Science Advisory Table recommended?

    I interpret this initiative as being nothing more than a token gesture from a Premier who really doesn’t support it or the workers it is suppose to help.

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