Ontario announces paid sick leave program to curb COVID-19 transmission
TORONTO -- Under pressure, Ontario's Progressive Conservative government has announced it will deliver its own paid sick leave program to help curb the spread of COVID-19 transmission in essential workplaces.
Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy announced the program, dubbed the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit, on Wednesday.
If passed, the legislation will require employers to pay workers up to $200 per day for up to three days if they are feeling sick or need to get vaccinated.
McNaughton said the program will not require sick notes and workers will not have to fill out any forms or applications.
Instead, he said, the employer will pay the employee out of pocket and will be reimbursed by the province through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
As well, the government says it is continuing to work with Ottawa to "double up" payments of the federally-mandated Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) from $500 to $1,000 per week before taxes, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not yet agreed to.
The Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit is retroactive from April 19 and will run until Sept. 25. The cost of the program has not been disclosed.
Public health experts and members of the opposition have been calling for a provincially-run paid sick leave program for months.
The NDP has said that such a measure could prevent infection and death in front-line employees.
Moreover, Ontario’s Science Advisory Table, which has been providing guidance to the Ford government, said that some employees have been forced to continue to work despite showing symptoms due to fear of losing their jobs.
On Wednesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that while the new program is welcome news, the amount of paid sick days available to essential employees is “disappointing.”
“Three days of paid sick leave is better than none but I don't know where the premier thinks that this is the best paid sick days program in North America. It certainly is not,” she said in reference to comments made by Premier Doug Ford during a tearful address last week.
Ford is currently in isolation following exposure to COVID-19. He has since tested negative but did not attend today’s news conference.
Shortly after taking office in 2018, Ford’s government axed a provincial paid sick leave program introduced by the previous Liberal government.