Ontario to provide three paid sick days for workers

Minister of Labour Training and Skills Development Monte Mc Naughton announced paid sick leave for Ontario

The federal program pays workers who need to self-isolate because they're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, but it's been criticized because there's a lag between when employees take time off work and when they receive money.

Eligible workers in Mississauga and Brampton could collect between $600 to $1,000 a week under a province-wide paid sick leave program announced by the Ontario government today. Any paid sick day program must be fully and immediately accessible to workers who need it with a quick and seamless reimbursement for employers. Retroactive to April 19, 2021, the program ends on Sept 25, 2021, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) expiry date.

The government will also introduce legislation that would allow employees to take three days off of work related to COVID-19.

In an April 22 letter from Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, the provincial government details an offer to double the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) for Ontarians from $500 to $1,000 per week. "Now we can fix the outstanding gap in the federal program so workers can get immediate support and can stay home when needed".

During today's Question Period, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government will be helping provinces set up their own paid sick leave programs.

As of April 11, 2021, over $600 million of the $1.1 billion committed by the federal government as part of the Safe Restart Agreement now remains unclaimed.

But Ottawa doesn't appear willing to accept Ontario's offer to top up CRSB payments.

"Real-world evidence from the COVID-19 pandemic and from influenza-like illnesses indicates that paid sick leave can support workers in following public health measures, reduce viral transmission and workplace outbreaks, promote higher vaccination rates among essential workers, increase work productivity, and reduce worker absenteeism". The leave would be available to employees who are covered by the Employment Standards Act and do not already have paid sick leave through their employer.

Ford's Conservative government has repeatedly shut down calls for provincially-mandated paid sick days to combat COVID-19 spread during the pandemic.

Some people argue that, while they're happy for their tax dollars to support local and independent businesses that otherwise couldn't afford sick pay, they're not entirely on board with bankrolling sick leave at somewhere like Costco.

Contingent on approval by the feds, this will raise the federal paid sick day program to $1,000 a week for four weeks. That means essential workers wouldn't be paid at all if they have to self-isolate due to a COVID-19 exposure more than twice. Most recently, an NDP bill calling for sick days and paid time off to get vaccinated was voted down in February.

She said the Ford government's plan is far from the best program in North America, a claim Premier Doug Ford made last week before announcing any details of his program.

"They came forward today with a back of the envelope kind of solution that is really not enough to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our workplaces".

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