On December 7, 2021, the Ontario Government announced the extension of the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit Program (“WIPB”) through to July 31, 2022. This program requires employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave (“IDEL”) for reasons related to COVID-19, including where the employee:
- is going for a COVID-19 test;
- is staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test;
- is sick with COVID-19;
- is going to get vaccinated;
- is experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination;
- has been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 by an employer, medical practitioner or other authority; or
- is taking care of a dependent who is sick with COVID-19, or has symptoms of COVID-19, or is self-isolating due to COVID-19.
As discussed in our previous communique, the WIPB was initially introduced on April 29, 2021 and was set to expire on September 25, 2021. The Ontario Government subsequently extended the expiry date to December 31, 2021 and it has now extended it again until July 31, 2022.
The WIPB requires employers to pay employees up to $200 a day (or their regular rate of pay, if less than $200) for up to three days. Employers can then apply for a reimbursement from the Ontario Government of the amounts paid to the employee. Now that the WIPB has been extended until July 31, 2022, employers will have 120 days after their employees are paid for a COVID-19 sick leave to submit their application to the WSIB. This paid leave is retroactive to absences from April 29, 2021 onwards.
Additionally, the Ontario Government has announced the extension of temporary changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 which deem non-unionized employees whose hours of work have been temporarily reduced or eliminated for reasons related to COVID-19, to be on an IDEL and not a temporary layoff under the Act. So long as these changes are in effect, employees in these circumstances will not be entitled to termination entitlements under the Act that arise at the end of a temporary layoff. This extension will continue to July 30, 2022.
Miller Thomson’s Labour and Employment team will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates as they occur.