The provinces of Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta have all introduced legislation that provides employees paid leave to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. In each province, the relevant legislation specifically provides employees with paid time off to obtain one or both COVID-19 vaccination doses. In all three provinces, employee are entitled to up to three paid hours.
What about Ontario? The answer lies in the recently introduced COVID-19 paid sick leave legislation.
What Is Ontario’s COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave?
On April 29, 2021, Ontario introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act (the “Act”) to provide Ontario employees with a temporary paid sick leave relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, following mounting public pressure.
Specifically, s. 50.1 of the Act was amended to provide for up to three days of paid sick leave for reasons relating to COVID-19, in addition to the unpaid COVID-19 leave that was introduced in 2020. The leave entitlement was made retroactive to April 19, 2021 and will end on September 25, 2021.
Under the amended legislation, employees are entitled to take up to three days paid leave and the employer must pay them the wages they would have otherwise earned, up to a maximum of $200 per day.
Employees must give notice of their intention to take the leave, although the legislation does not set out any specific notice period. Where an employee took the leave before advising the employer, the employee must do so as soon as possible.
The employer may ask for reasonable evidence that the employee is entitled to take the leave, although no other specifics are provided. However, the legislation does state that an employer cannot ask the employee for a medical certificate.
The legislation was also amended to add s. 50.1.1, which provides a mechanism for employers to obtain reimbursement for the paid leave. In order to obtain reimbursement for paying the COVID-19 paid leave to an employee, the employer must submit an application, along with the required documentation, to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. Where the employer meets all the specified criteria, the Board will reimburse the employer directly for the paid leave.
It should be noted that where an employment contract already provides for a similar leave, the leave under the contract will subsume the legislative leave.
Finally, it’s important to mention that this leave is only available to employees covered by the Act, which means that it does not apply to independent contractors or federally-regulated employees.
Does the COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Cover Vaccinations?
The answer is: yes.
While Ontario does not have a separate leave specifically for vaccinations, the government website specifically states that vaccinations are covered by the COVID-19 paid leave. The government website lists the following situations as examples of what would entitle an employee to the paid leave:
- Going for a COVID-19 test;
- Staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test;
- Being sick with COVID-19;
- Getting individual medical treatment related to COVID-19;
- Going to get vaccinated;
- Experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination;
- Having been advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 by an employer, medical practitioner or other specified authority;
- Providing care or support to certain relatives for COVID-19 related reasons, such as when they are sick with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 on the advice of a medical practitioner or other specified authority.
Employers and employees should be aware, however, that where an employee only takes part of a day as paid leave, they are deemed to have taken a full paid day of the COVID-19 leave.
Finally, it should be noted that employees who take both a paid and unpaid COVID-19 vaccination leave must be paid for the three days in priority to the unpaid leave.
At Bader Law in Mississauga, we have been advising business owners on employment law matters for over a decade. We help businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. Our clients range from small family-owned services companies to medium-sized software, technology, manufacturing, and industrial service enterprises with more than one hundred employees and annual revenues exceeding $50 million across multiple jurisdictions. We are proud of the long-lasting relationships we have built with many businesses for whom we act as in-house counsel on employment issues providing timely and practical legal advice to human resource professionals and business owners.
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