This afternoon, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton, and Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board Peter Bethlenfalvy announced that tomorrow they will introduce the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, that if passed, will create the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit, which will provide up to 3 days of paid sick leave. The program will hopefully help reduce COVID-19 transmission in Ontario.
The Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit will require employers to provide employees with their regular pay, up to $200 per day, for up to three paid sick days related to COVID-19. The three days can be used individually or consecutively. Employees will not need to provide a sick note or fill out any forms or applications. Employers will be reimbursed up to $200 per day for each employee for providing direct payment to the employee. The program will be administered through a partnership with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, but funding will be exclusively through provincial funds. It will be retroactive to April 19, 2021 and be in effect until September 25, 2021, the current end date for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.
Paid leave would be available for the following reasons:
The Government has indicated that this program is designed to get us through COVID-19 and builds on previous action taken by the Province to provide job protected leave related to COVID-19. The Government has indicated this program will be extended, if needed. Minister Bethlenfalvy could not provide an estimate for the cost of this program, as it will depend on take-up.
The Ontario government continues to work with the federal government to provide further support to those employees claiming the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. Ontario has offered to match the payment provided through this benefit to residents of Ontario, which, if approved, will provide workers with access to $1,000 per week, for four weeks. While the Ontario government has indicated this program has limitations because it requires a worker to miss half a week of work to qualify, they believe using this program is the fastest way to provide support to employees, especially when combined with the proposed Ontario COVID-19 Income Protection Benefit.