Ontario Introduces Paid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave: COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act
The Government of Ontario passed Bill 284, the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act. This Bill amends the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”) to provide both paid and unpaid time off for certain reasons related to COVID-19.
Under this Act, employers who do not have paid sick time policies or practices are now required to provide up to a total of three paid days of Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (“IDEL”) between April 19, 2021, and September 25, 2021. These days do not have to be taken consecutively, and an employee who takes part of a day as paid leave under this Act is deemed to have taken a full day of paid leave.
Please refer to the following for eligibility and payment details:
Employees are entitled to paid IDEL in the following circumstances
- The employee is going for or waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test
- The employee requires time off to be vaccinated or because of an adverse side-effect related to a COVID-19 vaccine
- The employee is sick with, and/or under medical supervision or treatment related to COVID-19
- The employee is acting in accordance with an order issued by the appropriate Public Health unit including quarantine or isolation
- The employee is under the employer’s direction to not attend at work in relation to a concern the employee may expose others to COVID-19
- The employee is taking care of a dependent who is sick with COVID-19, or who has symptoms of COVID-19, or who has been in contact with someone with COVID-19
Employees are entitled to unpaid IDEL if the leave extends beyond the three days. The three paid days are meant to be used before unpaid leave is taken, however an employee can elect to take the day as an unpaid leave so long as the employee advises the employer in writing before the end of the pay period in which the leave occurs.
An employer can request reasonable evidence to confirm the employee’s entitlement for the leave, but an employee is not required to provide a certificate from a qualified medial practitioner as evidence. An employer could ask for public health documentation to confirm a COVID-19 test result, a public health direction to isolate or self-monitor, or proof of vaccination.
Under this Act, employers are required to pay employees the lesser of $200 or the wages they would have earned if they had not taken the leave. If an employee’s daily rate of pay is more than $200, the employee receives only the $200 and not a regular full day’s pay. Any shift premiums or overtime pay are not to be included in the calculation.
For employees who receive commissions, piece-work rates, or other performance-related wages, the amount payable is the greater of their hourly rate (if any) and the minimum wage applicable for the hours they would have worked if they had not taken the leave.
Reimbursement of Paid Leave Amount
The program is retroactive to April 19, 2021, and will end on September 25, 2021, unless the province extends the plan past the current end date.
An employer may apply to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”) for repayment of paid IDEL. However, an employer cannot claim reimbursement for any payment made to an employee under an employment contract or policy that was in existence as of April 19, 2021. Currently there is nothing in this new legislation that requires the Employer to be registered with the WSIB in order to be eligible for reimbursement for the paid IDEL days.
Pay should be provided to employees no later than the pay day for the pay period during which they have elected to take a paid day of leave.
The WSIB will be making an application process available, the specifics of which have not yet been released.
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