We’ve discussed the unpaid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) in a number of our previous blog posts. On April 29, 2021, the Ontario government made updates to this leave and amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), introducing the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit. In addition to the unpaid IDEL, employers are now also required to provide eligible employees with the new paid IDEL – more specifically, up to $200 a day for up to three days – for reasons related to COVID-19. The three days need not be taken consecutively.
What are the eligible reasons for taking the paid IDEL?
Paid IDEL is available for certain reasons related to COVID-19, including:
- going to get vaccinated
- going to get a COVID-19 test
- staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test
- being sick with COVID-19
- 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
As is the case with the unpaid voluntary IDEL, employers cannot require employees to provide evidence, such as a doctor’s certificate, to prove that they are eligible for the paid IDEL.
Who is an eligible employee?
Only those employees who are covered under the ESA are eligible for the paid IDEL. So, federally regulated employees or independent contractors are not entitled to the three days of paid leave. That is not to say that these non-qualifying employees would not be eligible for other income support benefits; they may, for instance, qualify for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), which is currently available until September 25, 2021.
Can employers be reimbursed for the paid IDEL?
Eligible employers can be reimbursed up to $200 per employee for each day taken. Applications must be made to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board within 120 days of the date the employer pays the employee. The provincial government has indicated that it will soon provide more information on how to apply.
What if an existing contract already entitles the employee to take a paid leave for reasons related to COVID-19, as listed above?
If this is the case on April 19, 2021, the employee’s right to three paid days under the ESA will be reduced by the contract, so long as the amount of pay stipulated in the contract is equal to or greater than the employee’s ESA entitlements.
Can employees opt out of the paid IDEL if they feel it adversely affects their benefits under other programs?
Yes, employees may choose to opt out of the paid IDEL, in which case employees must advise their employers in writing that they are choosing to take the time as unpaid IDEL. This written decision by the employee must be made before the end of the pay period in which the leave occurs.
Is the paid IDEL retroactive?
This leave is retroactive from April 19, 2021. In other words, if the employee took an unpaid IDEL from April 19 to April 28, 2021, for a reason that would qualify them to take a paid IDEL, the employee can choose to take those days as paid leave, as long as the employee advises the employer of this decision in writing by May 12, 2021.
If you have questions about the paid IDEL or general questions about how to manage your evolving business needs during the pandemic, get in touch for a consultation!