Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit
Learn about employees’ rights to paid infectious disease emergency leave for covid 19.
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Paid infectious disease emergency leave
On April 29, 2021, the Ontario Government amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave because of certain reasons related to covid 19. This entitlement is in addition to employees’ rights to unpaid infectious disease emergency leave.
Paid infectious disease emergency leave is available for certain reasons related to covid 19, including:
- 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 for mental health reasons 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
- self-isolating due to covid 19 on the advice of a medical practitioner or other specified authority
Employers are generally required to pay employees the wages they would have earned had they not taken the leave, up to $200 a day for up to three days. The three days do not have to be taken consecutively. Vacation pay is payable on infectious disease emergency leave pay.
Independent contractors and federally regulated employees may be entitled to federal income support benefits, including the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CSRB).
Paid leave under existing contract
Employees who have rights to paid leave under their employment contract (which includes a collective agreement) may not be eligible for paid infectious disease emergency leave or may be entitled to fewer than three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).
For an employee’s three-days of ESA paid leave to be reduced, all four of the following criteria must be met.
On April 19, 2021:
- The employee had the right to a paid leave under their employment contract for one or more of the same reasons that paid infectious disease emergency leave can now be taken under the ESA.
- The employee had not already used up those days of paid leave under their employment contract before April 19, 2021 and those days were still remaining.
- The employee’s employment contract provided pay for the leave that is at least as much pay as the employee would be entitled to receive for paid infectious disease emergency leave under the ESA.
- The employee’s employment contract did not contain conditions for taking the leave that are more restrictive than what is set out in the ESA for taking paid infectious disease emergency leave.
Where all four of these criteria are met, the employee’s three-day entitlement to paid infectious disease emergency leave under the ESA is reduced by the number of days available under their employment contract that meet the four criteria.
Proof of entitlement to leave
Employers may require employees to provide evidence, reasonable to the circumstance, that they are entitled to the leave. What is considered reasonable in the circumstances will depend on all the facts of the situation.However, employers cannot require an employee to provide a certificate from a doctor or nurse as evidence.
If it is reasonable in the circumstances, evidence may take many forms, such as:
- a copy of the information issued to the public by a public health official advising of quarantine or isolation
- a copy of an order to isolate that was issued to the employee under s. 22 or s. 35 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act
- an email from a pharmacy or from a public health department indicating the employee’s appointment date and time to receive a covid 19 vaccination.
Employee opt-out of paid leave
Receiving paid infectious disease emergency leave may affect an employee’s eligibility for, or amount of, benefits under other programs. To avoid this outcome, employees may choose not to receive the infectious disease emergency leave pay they are entitled to.
To do this, employees must advise their employer in writing of their decision to take the time as unpaid infectious disease emergency leave.
This written notice of their decision must be made before the end of the pay period in which the leave occurs.
Unpaid infectious disease emergency leave taken between April 19, 2021 and April 28, 2021
Although the ESA was amended on April 29, 2021, the entitlement to paid infectious disease emergency leave is deemed to have started on April 19, 2021.
Eligible employees who took an unpaid infectious disease emergency leave between April 19, 2021 and April 28, 2021, for a reason for which they can take paid leave, can choose to take those days as paid leave instead. To make this decision, employees must have advised their employer in writing no later than May 12, 2021.
Employer reimbursement for paid leave
Eligible employers are entitled to be reimbursed the amount of infectious disease emergency leave pay that they paid to their employees, up to $200 per employee per day taken.
Employers can only claim reimbursement for individuals who are employees under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). Learn more about who is an employee under the ESA.
Reimbursement is only for infectious disease emergency leave pay under the ESA. Employers are not entitled to be reimbursed for vacation pay although employees are entitled to vacation pay for the wages they earn while on the paid leave.
Eligibility for reimbursement
An employer’s eligibility to be reimbursed for paying infectious disease emergency leave depends on what other rights their employee has.
As of April 19, 2021, employers are eligible for reimbursement of paid infectious disease emergency leave if any one of the following apply:
- The employee used up some of their paid leave under their employment contract before April 19, 2021 so that they didn’t have at least three days of paid leave remaining. In this situation, the amount of reimbursement an employer would be entitled to depends on the number of days the employee has remaining under the employment contract. For example:
- If an employee had three days of paid leave under an employment contract and used up all three before April 19, 2021, the employee would be entitled to three days of paid leave under the ESA and the employer could apply for reimbursement for these three days.
- If an employee had three days of paid leave under an employment contract but only used up two days before April 19, 2021, the employee would have one remaining day under their employment contract and would therefore be entitled to two days under the ESA and the employer could apply for reimbursement for these two days.
- If an employee had five days of paid leave under an employment contract but only used up two, the employee would have no entitlement under the ESA because they still have three days remaining under their employment contract, therefore the employer would not eligible for reimbursement.
- The employment contract provided less pay for the leave than the entitlement under the ESA (generally the wages the employees would have earned had they not taken the leave, up to $200). For example:
- An employee’s paid leave under their employment contract provides for $100 dollars for the day. However, the wages they would have earned while on paid leave under the ESA is $150. In this scenario, the day of paid leave under the contract does not reduce the employee’s entitlement to days of paid infectious disease emergency leave under the ESA. If the employee takes paid infectious disease emergency leave under the ESA, the employer can apply for reimbursement of $150.
- The employment contract contained conditions for taking the leave that are more restrictive than what is set out in the ESA. For example:
- An employee is sick with covid 19 and their employment contract requires a doctor’s note for paid sick days. Under the ESA, an employee is not required to provide a doctor’s note for paid infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL). If the employee takes paid IDEL under the ESA, the employer would be eligible for reimbursement.
Exclusion from reimbursement
An employer is not entitled to be reimbursed for payments made to an employee for paid infectious disease emergency leave under the Employment Standards Act (ESA) if either:
- the employee received WSIB benefits for the same days of leave
- the employer cancelled or rescinded the paid leave offered to their employees as part of an employment contract on, or after, April 19, 2021
In other words, an employer cannot cancel their employee’s contractual entitlement to paid leave in order to take advantage of the covid 19 Worker Income Protection Benefit.
Apply for reimbursement
Employers may now submit claims to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to get reimbursed for paying their employees the Ontario covid 19 Worker Income Protection Benefit.
Applications for reimbursement of paid infectious disease emergency leave must be made within 120 days of the date the employer paid the employee. The WSIB cannot process applications submitted after 120 days of the payment date.
Employers should ensure that their applications are complete and include all information required by the WSIB. The WSIB will not process incomplete applications.
Check the status of your claim
Once you submit your claim you will receive a claim confirmation number. You can check your claim status with the WSIB for an up-to-date view on the progress of your claim.
Payments are scheduled to begin by the end of June and happen on a bi-weekly basis thereafter. It is expected that it will take approximately two weeks to process an approved claim. The timing of payment depends on the completeness and complexity of the claim.
Verification and enforcement
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will use the information that employers provide in the application for reimbursement application verification and processing payments.
It is a contravention of the Employment Standards Act (ESA) to file a false or misleading application for reimbursement. Where the WSIB is of the opinion that false and misleading information has been filed in an application, the WSIB will disclose this information to the Director of Employment Standards for investigation and potential enforcement.
For specific-claim related inquiries once you have a claim confirmation number or technical issues with submitting a claim, please request support and a claims specialist will reach out to you.
For more general information on eligibility criteria, how to apply and program rules, please call the Ontario covid 19 Worker Income Protection Benefit Information Centre
Apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit
The Government of Canada currently offers the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), which may provide federal income support benefits to employees who are not working for certain covid 19 reasons.
The CRSB is currently available until September 25, 2021.
The right to take time off work under the ESA is not the same as the right to the payment of employment insurance benefits or federal government supports. An employee may be entitled to a leave under the ESA whether or not they have applied for or qualified for federal benefits or supports.
All payments are administered by the Government of Canada through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are unable to work at least 50% of their scheduled work week because they are either:
- sick with covid 19
- need to self-isolate due to covid 19
- have an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of getting covid 19
Employees are not eligible for the CRSB if they are receiving paid leave from their employer for the same period or receiving any of the following for the same period:
- Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB)
- Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB)
- short-term disability benefits
- Employment Insurance (EI) benefits
- Québec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) benefits
The following are cumulative statistics relating to applications for reimbursement the WSIB has received from employers. The information is current as of June 21, 2021.
- Number of employees paid whose employers submitted claims: 14,230
- Total amount of money claimed: $4 million
- Average number of days claimed per employee: 1.8 days
- Average claim value: $155 per day
- Top three industries that submitted claims:
- Top three cities that claims came from: