Ontario introduces 3 paid sick days for workers, offer to boost federal sick leave to $1,000

The Ontario government has announced they will be mandating three paid sick days and has offered to boost the federal sick-leave program to $1,000 per week to those eligible.


The Ontario government has announced they will be mandating three paid sick days and has offered to boost the federal sick-leave program to $1,000 per week to those eligible.

Provincial Labour Minister Monte McNaughton made the announcement Wednesday and said the legislation, if passed, would require employers to pay employees up to $200 per day for three days. The program, which is available to full and part-time employees, will be retroactive to April 19 and be effective until Sept. 25.

The province is partnering with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to deliver the program and reimburse employers.

The program is expected to cost the province between $750 million and $1.5 billion.

Ontario has also offered to boost the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) from $500 to $1,000. In a statement, Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said they are continuing to discuss the province’s top-up of the program with the federal government.

“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,” read the statement.

The federal government has not committed to this agreement at this point and had previously said Ottawa will help when Ontario is ready to mandate a sick-leave program for provincially regulated businesses.

In a statement, press secretary for the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Katherine Cuplinskas reiterated that sentiment saying “we will be there to help Ontario with its program.” She added that they are “pleased” that Ontario is ready to mandate sick leave in provincially-regulated businesses, “as we have done for federally-regulated businesses since 2019.”

“The federal wage subsidy was designed – and is already set up – to provide employers with financial support to pay the wages of workers who are on sick leave,” she said. “Our priority is protecting lives and ensuring no one needs to put themselves or others at risk if they feel sick. We will continue to be there for Canadians – as we have been since the start of the pandemic.”

Critics were quick to note, however, that three paid sick days were far less than the 10 to 14 days health professionals recommend for a period of self-isolation due to COVID-19.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government’s policy “simply will not cut it.”

“(Workers) will be left making pretty much the same kind of calculation that they’re being forced to make now, which is, ‘I’ve got the sniffles, I’m not feeling all that great … but I have to go to work because I don’t have financial security to stay home’,” she said.

Horwath said her party needed to see the government’s legislation before deciding whether to support it, but added that it appeared inferior to an NDP private members’ bill to introduce 10 paid sick days.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he was shocked that after months of pressure, the three-day policy was all that the Ford government introduced.

He called on the the premier — who is in self-isolation after being exposed to a staff member with COVID-19 — to change the legislation to provide at least 10 paid sick days.

“I was hopeful that after the premier took taxpayer-funded paid sick days to isolate after a workplace exposure, he would have had a change of heart,” he said. “But Ford’s plan falls well short of providing the protection workers need.”

The CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario said the government’s sick-leave program will not be enough to prevent further illness and outbreaks and will further extend the third wave of the pandemic.

Doris Grinspun said employees will use the three days but could return to work sick.

“Three days is insufficient to stop it,” she said. “Therefore, we will continue with this for a couple of months at least.”

The president of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce called the new program a “step in the right direction” but recommended enhancements.

“Any paid sick-day program must be fully and immediately accessible to workers who need it with a quick and seamless reimbursement for employers,” Rocco Rossi said in a statement. “When workers protect themselves, they protect their colleagues, their employers, and their communities.”

Dr. Michael Warner at Michael Garron Hospital, posted a video to Twitter breaking down the numbers and highlighting how paid sick days would directly impact the family of one of his patients.

The recent COVID-19 death of a 13-year-old Brampton, Ont., girl whose father is an essential worker, renewed calls for an Ontario program.

Horwath said it’s clear the federal government had “rebuffed” the province’s request.

“That’s not going to stop the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces and it’s not going to stop the deaths,” she said.

Meantime, the Ford government announced Wednesday that hospitals in Ontario will now be able to transfer patients waiting for a long-term care bed to any nursing home without their consent in an effort to free up space.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says the government has issued a new emergency order to allow for such transfers.

With files from Lucas Casaletto 

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