Paid Sick Leave? Sort of
With the numbers of COVID-19 cases rising again, especially in the GTA, many employees are asking me as a Toronto employment lawyer what happens if they become sick and they are forced to stay home for 14 days.
Following the end of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the federal government introduced three new benefits to address issues related to leave from work and COVID-19. The three new benefits are called the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit.
The government promoted the CRSB as a means to “ensure all Canadian workers have access to paid sick leave.”
Can I get paid sick leave?
As the title suggests, it is not that simple.
The vast majority of employees in Canada work for provincially regulated businesses. The Federal government does not have the power in the constitution to force those businesses to give paid sick days. What the government has developed instead is a system, like employment insurance, that would be available to most employees.
As long as the person meets the eligibility criteria such as being over the age of 15 and having made $5,000 in employment or self-employment earnings in the past year, they will be able to receive $500 per week for two weeks if certain situations occur. That is, if their work has been reduced by 50% because:
- they contracted or might have contracted COVID-19,
- they have other conditions or treatments may make them more susceptible to COVID-19,
- they were required to isolate,
- and they have not been granted paid leave or been paid under a sickness benefit plan.
This is a fairly broad list. But it does ensure that all employees will have access to paid sick leave.
What about non-Covid illness?
Employees who experience any other health-related issue cannot access this benefit and depending on their province of employment may not have access to paid sick days. For example, an employee who gets food poisoning or breaks their ankle will likely not be able to receive this benefit.
The benefit also does not provide paid sick days commensurate with earnings. An employee who makes $100,000 annually but whose company only provides for 5 paid sick days, will not receive an additional week’s pay at their weekly rate of $1,923.08 if they are off for 14 days due to COVID. They will only receive the $500 provided for in the benefit for the additional week they are off work.
Employees who require additional time off due to COVID-19 or other illnesses may still be entitled to job-protected leave – beyond the paid sick leave above – under human rights and employment legislation but the additional time will be unpaid.