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3 days of paid time off for everyone

May 4, 2021

On April 29, 2021, the Ontario provincial government introduced the COVID–19 Putting Workers First Act, 2021. This act aimed to reduce the spread of COVID–19 by legislating three paid sick days for employees.

Under the Act, most employees in Ontario may receive three days of paid leave, during the period from April 19, 2021 to September 25, 2021, if they won’t be working because of a COVID-19 related cause such as:

  • being in quarantine or isolation because of COIVD-19
  • getting a COIVD-19 vaccination
  • dealing with side effects of a COIVD-19 vaccination
  • being under investigation or treatment related to COVID-19
  • isolating in accordance with an order made under section 22 or 35 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act due to COVID-19; or
  • staying home to care for an individual due to COIVD-19 (including staying home to care for children whose schools are closed)

Employees that take a day off provided by this Act will be paid their full daily salary up to a maximum of $200 per day.

This new paid time off does not stack with paid time off that an employee is already entitled to receive under their employment contract. So an employee who is receives 4 paid days off under their employment contract will not be entitled to any additional days off under the new Act. For employees that already receive one or two paid days off, they must use those days before having a right to use the new days.

To claim a paid day off under the act, employees simply need to inform their employer that they are taking the day off for a COVID-19 related reason. The employer is then required to pay the employee for that day off (up to the maximum of $200).

Employers can seek reimbursement for the payment by applying through the WSIB’s Worker Income Protection Benefit Program portal. Any application for reimbursement must be made within 120 days of the payment employer is seeking to be reimbursed for. Employers will be fully reimbursed for each payment that is properly submitted to the WSIB but will not be reimbursed for late applications.

The Act also includes provisions to prevent employers from trying to side-step existing paid time off entitlements. If an employment contract is revised after April 19, 2021 to reduce the number of paid days off an employee may claim, the employer is barred from receiving reimbursement for payments that would have been covered by the employment contract before the change, even if they are not covered under the revised employment contract.

While these new provisions are certainly helpful in giving some much-needed relief to employees who need to take time off due to COVID-19, they have been criticized for not going far enough to help vulnerable employees. It will be interesting to see how these new days off are used in practice.

In the interim, I highly recommend that you check out Suhaib Ibrahim’s blog post on why employers should provide employees with paid time off (and potentially more than 3 days).