In Ontario’s 2023 budget, which was announced on Thursday, the provincial government confirmed its temporary paid sick day program will expire on March 31, 2023.
The measure, which was introduced during the coronavirus pandemic and provided three paid sick days to workers, was designed to support people who needed to take time off work to isolate or get vaccinated, according to the budget.
It was originally set to expire at the end of September 2021, but the program has since been extended multiple times and was most recently set to expire at the end of March.
“As a time-limited pandemic measure, the Ontario government introduced paid COVID-19 leave, a program designed to support people who needed to take time off work to isolate or get vaccinated,” said Caitlin Clark, a spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford. “Ontario has now achieved one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and, consistent with the sunset date for this program, it will expire effective March 31, 2023.”
While Clark said it won’t be replaced with another program, she noted the government will continue moving forward with its plan to provide portable health and dental coverage to workers without paid sick days. That portable benefits program is intended to cover workers in the gig economy, retail and hospitality jobs who don’t have benefits and accommodate people who may change careers throughout their lives.
NDP Leader Marit Stiles said her party was pushing for 10 guaranteed paid sick days for all Ontarians plus an additional 14 government-funded paid sick days during a public health emergency. “This government is no friend to Ontario workers,” she wrote in a statement on Wednesday. “Nobody in Ontario should have to go to work sick or leave a sick child because they can’t afford not to.”
The provincial government first announced the temporary sick leave plan in the spring of 2021 after facing growing calls to bring in such a policy to minimize workplace spread of the coronavirus. Under the program, employers were reimbursed by the government for the paid leave days. Eligible workers could receive up to $200 per day for up to three days for pandemic-related absences like testing, vaccination, isolation or caring for relatives who were ill with the virus.
This week, Ontario’s labour minister said the program has served more than 500,000 workers.