On April 29, 2021, the Government of Ontario stated that it plans to introduce the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act. When passed, this legislation “would require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid leave because of certain reasons related to COVID-19.” According to a government press release, the act would apply retroactively to April 19, 2021, and would expire on September 25, 2021.
To qualify for this new temporary leave, employees must be provincially regulated and covered by Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000. Therefore, federally regulated employees and independent contractors are not eligible to take this leave. Employers that already provide paid sick leave are not required to provide these additional paid days.
Amounts Paid and Reimbursement
Under the proposed legislation, employers would be required to pay employees up to $200 per day. The proposed law does not require employees to take these three paid sick days consecutively. Certain eligible employers could apply for reimbursement of the $200 daily payments from the Ontario government. As of the publication of this article, Ontario has not released information on the reimbursement criteria or the particulars of employer eligibility.
According to the proposed law, employees may take this new paid leave for the following reasons:
- “going for a COVID-19 test
- staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test
- being sick with COVID-19
- going to get vaccinated
- experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination
- having been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 by an employer, medical practitioner or other authority
- taking care of a dependent who is:
- sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19
- self-isolating due to COVID-19”
Key Takeaways for Employers
Once this act becomes law, employers would be obligated to provide three days of paid leave for COVID-19 related reasons. Employers may ask for proof of an employee’s entitlement to this leave, but must be cautious as the proposed law prohibits employers from asking for a doctor’s note as evidence.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.
Emily Cohen-Gallant is an associate in the Toronto office of Ogletree Deakins.
Caroline M. DeBruin is a 2020 graduate of Queen’s University, Faculty of Law, and is an articling student in the Toronto office of Ogletree Deakins.