In April 2021, the Ontario government passed Bill 284, the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act, into law. This law amends the Employment Standards Act (ESA), 2000 by requiring employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL), of up to $200 per day, for reasons related to COVID-19.
Introduced as a temporary benefit, applying retroactively from April 19 to September 25, 2021, the provincial government has since extended the expiration date to December 31, 2021.
Paid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave Eligibility Criteria
Pursuant to the Ontario Ministry of Labour guidelines, this paid leave applies in connection with specified absences because of the COVID-19 public health emergency, such as:
- Going for a COVID-19 test
- Isolating at home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test
- Being sick with COVID-19
- Going to get vaccinated
- Experiencing side effects from a COVID-19 vaccination
- Self-isolation due to COVID-19 based on direction from an employer, medical practitioner, health care provider or public health official
- Providing care or support to a family member who is ill or isolating for COVID-19 related reasons
Note: Employees are not required to provide a doctor’s note or other medical evidence to take the paid leave. Also, employers cannot penalize employees in any way because they take, or plan to take, paid infectious disease emergency leave.
If you are already eligible for paid leave in the above circumstances according to the terms of your employment contract, this entitlement does not provide additional paid sick days or financial supports on top of existing employment insurance benefits. Therefore, any paid leave taken will count toward the three days of paid leave under the paid infectious disease emergency leave provisions.
Unpaid Job Protected Leave for Reasons Related to COVID-19
All employees covered by the ESA have the right to take unpaid infectious disease emergency leave if they cannot perform their duties because of any of the following reasons:
- Any form of medical investigation, supervision or treatment related to a designated infectious disease;
- Following a COVID-19 related order issued under section 22 or 35 of the Health Promotion and Protection Act;
- Quarantine, isolation (voluntary or involuntary), or a control measure;
- An employer’s concern that the employee might expose other individuals in the workplace;
- Providing care or support to a family member because of a matter related to the designated infectious disease.
Note: COVID-19 is the only disease for which unpaid infectious disease emergency leave may be taken at this time and until further notice.
Length of Unpaid Leave
Employees can take unpaid infectious disease leave only for as long as the triggering event lasts. After the triggering event ends, the employee’s obligations to perform their duties resume, however, there is no specified limit to the number of days an employee can be on unpaid infectious disease emergency leave.
For unpaid infectious disease emergency leaves, employees can take the leave in part days, full days or periods of more than one day.
Eligible employers are entitled to reimbursement through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) of up to $200 per employee per day taken. There is a 120-day deadline for applying for reimbursement.
Are You Entitled to a Paid Leave of Absence?
Ontario employers must provide eligible employees with up to three days of paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19. If your employer denies you these entitlements, you could be entitled to compensation.
If you have questions or concerns about your employment situation, as it relates to COVID-19 workplace safety, contact the expert legal team at JPAK Employment Law for legal advice about your specific situation.
Updated: October 18, 2021