Thunder Bay / KENORA – “Workers in Ontario need a fair deal, not a federal program that pays below minimum wage. With the new variants of concern, people need more support now than ever before,” said MPP Greg Rickford. “Our government is filling the gaps in the federal government’s Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) to ensure workers have access to the most generous pandemic paid leave in the country.”
The Ontario government states that it is continuing to work with the federal government to further support vulnerable workers by doubling payments made through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) program, the province 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. 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 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 will 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.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said three paid sick days isn’t enough in the midst of a global pandemic.
“In the year it took the government to capitulate on paid sick days, 455,000 people were infected and nearly 8,000 died of COVID-19. This action is coming far too late. Too late to stop COVID-19 from getting out of control. Too late for workers who have already gotten sick,” said Horwath.
“And it’s still too little. COVID-19 takes a couple weeks to get over. Even getting a test and waiting for results can take several days. Three sick days is not enough.
“To all those people who have fought for over a year, thank you. We share your disappointment and we’re going to keep fighting with you.”
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.
The province continues to visit workplaces to ensure they are adhering to COVID-19 safety requirements. Since the beginning of 2021, occupational health and safety inspectors and multi-ministry teams of provincial offences officers have conducted more than 21,900 COVID-19-related workplace inspections and investigations across the province. During these visits, more than 17,260 orders and more than 520 COVID-19-related tickets have been issued, and unsafe work related to COVID-19 has been stopped 35 times.
As the Ontario government continues to do what is necessary to control the spread of COVID-19, it remains vital for the federal government to secure more vaccines sooner and close the loopholes in border restrictions that will continue to allow new, more contagious variants to enter the country.