Ontario’s COVID-19 paid sick leave program is rarely adopted


New data shows that Ontario’s long-awaited paid sick leave program (designed to protect vulnerable workers from COVID-19) has adopted a much lower rate than expected.

After the third wave of the pandemic has subsided, the government of Governor Doug Ford announced the Ontario COVID-19 worker income protection benefit at the end of April.

If the employer is unable to complete the work for any reason related to COVID-19 (including being tested, caring for sick family members, and suffering), the government will pay the employer up to $200 in wages and pay for the side effects of up to three days of vaccination .

As of July 16, since the plan took effect, 39,887 employees have filed claims. According to statistics, each worker claims for an average of 1.8 days. Published provincial figures.

Put these numbers in context: During the same 13-week period, Ontario reported more than 126,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and received approximately 13 million vaccine doses. The program will end on September 25.

On April 28, the Secretary of Labor, Monte McNaughton (Monte McNaughton) announced that Ontario plans to pay up to $200 per day to employees who take up to 3 days of leave due to COVID-19-related reasons. The program will end on September 25. (Chris Young/Canada Press)

The demand for sick leave wages and benefits seems to be far below the government’s expectations. When the plan was launched, provincial officials estimated the cost to be between US$750 million and US$1.5 billion.

As of Wednesday—just past the midpoint of the time-limited plan—the total claims were $13.2 million. This is less than 2% of low-end estimates.

The number of claims so far may not fully reflect the number of days of sick leave that will eventually be compensated, because employers can wait to apply for compensation within four months after workers are paid.

The latest data provided by the Ontario Ministry of Labor, Training and Skills Development to CBC News on Thursday suggests that the use of the program may be accelerating. During the week from July 8th to 14th, the employer filed a claim of $2.2 million. From July 15 to 21, the total amount of claims submitted was US$3.1 million.

The Ford administration was under constant pressure from health experts and labor organizations, and only introduced the sick pay program more than a year after the pandemic began.

Ontario now requires employers to provide workers with up to three days of paid emergency leave for infectious diseases for various reasons related to COVID-19, including vaccinations or experiencing side effects of vaccines. The province reimburses employers for sick pay of up to $200 a day. (Nathan Dennett/Canada Press)

A doctor who belongs to an advocacy group that promotes paid sick leave said these figures do not indicate that the plan was a failure.

“We have to realize that the plan was implemented at the end of the third wave of the pandemic, when the vaccination rate was high, and we also saw a sharp drop in the number of COVID-19,” said Gabriel Stephen, emergency department in the Peel area Doctors and members of the Decent Work and Health Network, an advocacy organization.

He said that so far, the total amount of sick pay claims is “approximately 80,000 [paid] Otherwise, the day will not exist, we should admit that this is a small victory. ”

Advocates have long believed that paid sick leave is a key factor in slowing the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. The reason is that if people face losing their wages because of taking a day off, they are more likely to bring infections into the workplace.

According to Statistics Canada, about half of the workforce is unable to enjoy sick leave paid by employers.

According to Statistics Canada, about half of the workforce is unable to enjoy sick leave paid by employers. (Andrew Lee/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Although Stephen is cautious about drawing conclusions from sick pay claims data too quickly, he said that they seem to indicate that it is inaccurate to predict that workers will blatantly abuse benefits.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses conducted a survey of paid sick leave for COVID-19 among its members in Ontario last month. Of the 1,700 companies that responded, only 19% said that employees have used the program.

However, CFIB found that among employers operating as basic services, such as manufacturing (36%) and construction (30%), the adoption rate is significantly higher.

The organization’s senior director of provincial affairs in Ontario, Ryan Mallough, said: “This was launched during a period when many small businesses were closed, right in the middle of the third wave.”

In an interview on Thursday, he said: “If all small businesses were open and a lot of labor came in every day, the situation could be very different.”

But because many small retailers, gyms and restaurants in Ontario were all or partly closed before this month, many employees were out of work.

“[There are] It’s just that there are not many opportunities to use sick leave, because there is no day to take sick leave,” said Marlow.



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