In general, paid sick leave means a number of days per year when employees can expect to receive wages while they recover from a short-term illness or care for a sick loved one. In most Canadian labour jurisdictions, employees don’t have this, though every province and territory has at least some minimum amount of unpaid sick leave, ranging from three days to two weeks per year. This allows workers to take time off without risk of losing their jobs, but they’d still lose income. Paid days off are meant to bridge that gap, especially in the pandemic, when Canadians with COVID-19 are urged to stay home and protect their co-workers.
A sickness benefit may compensate workers who’ve lost income, but only after the fact and not nearly as much as their regular wages, so it’s not really paid leave. The federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit gives out $500 over a one-week period to employees who’ve lost at least half of their scheduled work week due to illness or self-isolation, but that money is taxed, and the program is due to wrap up on Sept. 25. The Yukon has a Paid Sick Leave Rebate that covers up to 10 days of wages, but it too expires in September.
Which provinces have paid sick days?
Only a few jurisdictions have forms of paid leave that have been made permanent through legislation:
- Federal: In sectors regulated by the federal government, such as banking, trucking and telecom, employees get five paid days of personal leave per year.
- Quebec: Before the pandemic, employees could get two paid sick days starting at three months of continuous service.
- PEI: Employees get a day of paid leave after five years’ service and three days unpaid leave after three months’ service.
Ontario, which previously had no paid leave and rebuffed calls to create some, bowed to public pressure in April and required employers to pay up to $200 a day for three days of paid leave, with the provincial Workplace Safety and Insurance Board picking up the tab. But the Ford government doesn’t plan on making it permanent: It expires on Sept. 25.
In British Columbia, the government has introduced a bill that would mandate employers to offer three paid sick days at full wages (if they don’t already), and the province would reimburse them up to $200 a day. That would continue until the end of 2021, when a permanent system of paid sick leave would take its place, but the details of that have yet to be sorted out.
Work and COVID-19: More reading
Compiled by Globe staff
With reports from Laura Stone, Jeff Gray, Justine Hunter, Bill Curry and The Canadian Press