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Ontario to introduce 3 days paid COVID-19 leave after months of pressuring

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TORONTO, April 28, 2021to – After months of continued urging from politcal leaders, union leaders, and medical professionals, the Ontario government announced today that it will introduce legislation that, if passed, will offer up to three paid sick days per employee.

On Thursday, April 29, 2021, Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, will introduce legislation that would, if passed, require employers to provide employees with up to $200 of pay for up to three days if they are missing work because of COVID-19. The province says this program will be retroactive to April 19, 2021 and effective until September 25, 2021, the date the CRSB will expire.

By providing time-limited access to three paid leave days, the province says it is “ensuring employees can pay their bills as they help stop the spread of the virus, including by getting tested, waiting for their results in isolation or going to get their vaccine.” The province is going to partner with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to deliver the program and reimburse employers up to $200 per day for each employee.

“Our government has long advocated for the federal government to enhance the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program to better protect the people of Ontario, especially our tireless essential workers,” said Minister McNaughton. “It is a tremendously positive step that the federal government has signaled their willingness to continue discussions on the CRSB. Now we can fix the outstanding gap in the federal program so workers can get immediate support and can stay home when needed.”

Following today’s provincial announcement, Unifor says it is once again asking the Ontario government to introduce permanent, employer-paid sick leave that meets the needs of workers.

Jerry Dias, Unifor National President says the province is putting profits ahead of workers with just three paid sick days.

“What Minister McNaughton’s announcement shows is that the conservatives are willing to go to great lengths to protect pandemic profits for big business, while ignoring the solutions that workers and their unions have proposed repeatedly,” said Dias. “Hopefully, this new program will help fill some gaps, and make it simpler to get time off for vaccinations, but it’s a long way from the permanent paid sick leave that workers still need,” added dias.

The province has also offered to provide funding to the federal government to double CRSB payments to Ontario residents, adding an additional $500 per week to eligible individuals for a total of $1,000 per week. Combined with the province’s proposed three days of paid COVID-19 leave, doubling the CRSB would provide Ontario workers with access to the most generous pandemic paid leave in the country.

“Ontario is very proud of those working throughout this unprecedented time to keep essential parts of our economy and local communities open through the pandemic,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance and President of the Treasury Board. “The government of Canada and Ontario have done a historic job delivering the Safe Restart Agreement last year. New provincial funding would allow eligible individuals to receive a total of $1000 per week through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program if missing work because of COVID-19. Ontario looks forward to continuing discussions to secure Ottawa’s commitment to administer the program with the top-up to all Ontario applicants. We believe that this is the simplest and fastest way to increase program uptake and make this program more effective for those people who need this program most.”

If an eligible worker learns that they must isolate for longer than 50 per cent of the time they would have otherwise worked for the week, whether because of a positive COVID-19 test or risk of exposure, they may apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit if they haven’t taken a paid leave day under this proposal.

This latest measure builds on other existing provincial supports like job protected leave and access to isolation facilities, making Ontario’s approach the most comprehensive COVID-19 sick leave in the country.

Employers and their workers can call a dedicated COVID-19 Sick Days Information Centre hotline at 1-888-999-2248 or visit Ontario.ca/COVIDworkerbenefit to get more information and updates about the proposed Ontario COVID-19 paid leave days.

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