One of the most recent policies passed in response to COVID-19 is an amendment to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). It requires employers in Ontario to provide their employees with up to three paid sick days if circumstances due to the pandemic force them out of work.
The legislation requires that employers give up to three days of paid leave to employees missing work due to COVID-19-related reasons. Employees won’t have to take the three days off consecutively.
Eligibility is retroactive to April 19, 2021, and will end on September 25, 2021 (provided the provincial government doesn’t extend the date). How will these new paid sick leave days affect your Human Resources and Payroll departments?
What Are The New Three Days Paid Sick Leave Provisions?
The Paid ESA COVID Leave covers any of the following:
- Illness due to COVID-19
- Taking leave for a COVID-19 test or isolating while awaiting the results of one
- Getting the COVID-19 vaccine or recuperating from a side effect of the shot
- Self-isolation due to exposure to COVID-19
- Taking care of a dependent who is sick, has symptoms, or self-isolating because of COVID-19
The amount paid is the lesser of $200 per day and either:
- The wages the employee would have earned had they not taken the leave, or
- The greater of the employee’s hourly rate (if any) if the employee receives commissions or tips, as well as the minimum wage for the number of hours the employee would have worked.
The $200 per day maximum does not include shift and overtime premiums that would have been payable on those days.
Who Would Qualify For The New Paid Sick Leave?
The employees who qualify for the three-day leave include those covered by the Employment Standards Act and anyone who does not already receive paid sick leave through their employer. Federally regulated employees and independent contractors are not eligible.
Employees do not obtain an increased number of paid sick days if they already have allotments for paid sick days through company policy or contract. For example, if an employer has a sick leave policy that pays employees at least as much per day as Paid ESA COVID Leave, they can deduct these days from the employee’s new allotment.
It’s important to note that employees will not have to provide a doctor’s note as evidence. However, employers can apply for reimbursement from the provincial government.
Where Does WSIB Come Into Play?
Payroll impact will be minimal in the long run for eligible employers, as they do not have to cover all of the paid sick leave. The Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) administers applications from employers for reimbursement.
Employers have to determine whether employees are eligible for Paid ESA COVID Leave, pay them if they are, and then seek reimbursement through the WSIB. Eligible employers would have to apply within 120 days of the paid leave.
Any Human Resources department must know their company’s eligibility. They must also be truthful about the sick leave paid out! The WSIB may tell employers to repay any reimbursements if they determined the employer was ineligible or that they provided false or misleading information. It’s also very much against the law, so more penalties could be forthcoming.