Ontario to introduce legislation to provide three paid sick days, enhance COVID-19 supports for workers




BAY OF QUINTE – Todd Smith, MPP for Bay of Quinte, was pleased to see new supports for workers introduced by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton and Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy this afternoon.

If passed, the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act would require employers to provide workers up to three days of pay, up to $200 per day, if missing work due to COVID-19 retroactive to April 19 and effective to Sept. 25.  Employers would provide workers their regular pay and be reimbursed by the Province through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. 

For longer-term absences, Ontario has also offered to provide funding to the federal government to double the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) by $500 per week to a total of $1,000 per week.

“This plan offers workers immediate access to the most paid sick time in any Canadian province during COVID-19 without placing extra burden on ailing businesses during a difficult time,” said Smith. “This meaningful support will ensure more people stay at home and reduce the spread of highly-contagious variants.”

The provincial government’s first act during the pandemic was to introduce a job-protected infectious disease leave to support workers needing to insolate, undergo treatment, or support others with COVID-19.  Last summer, Ontario joined the other nine provinces in negotiating the Safe Restart Agreement where the federal government committed $1.1 billion to fund 10 paid sick days.

Amid concerns about the CRSB accessibility criteria for days missed limited access to the program (an employee must be away from work at least 50 per cent of the week to qualify), the funding not being enough to address lost wages, and delays in payment, the provincial government advocated to the federal government to fix the program, rather than requiring provinces to duplicate it.

“With the generous financial commitment the federal government made, we felt it made sense to focus on improving that program, rather than recreating it – something no province had done.  That would have allowed provinces to focus their resources on improving our health-care capacity and other measures to prevent further spread,” said Smith. “When those changes didn’t occur, our government moved to fill the gaps and provide that support for workers and their families.”

McNaughton added “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. 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."

Smith thanked Bay of Quinte residents for their strong adherence to public health measures and encouraged them to continue that practice and book vaccinations when eligible to do so.