While the debate over paid sick days intensifies across Canada, only two provinces currently offer this benefit on a permanent basis.
On April 30, Ontario passed a three-day sick leave policy — to be administered through the Workplace Insurance and Safety Board — retroactive to April 19 and ending on Sept. 25. Employers will be reimbursed for up to $200 a day for what they pay out. The policy was introduced after months of pressure from health experts and advocates who said paid sick leave would reduce workplace outbreaks. The province only shifted its stance recently, after the federal government left a national sick-pay benefit unchanged in this month’s budget.
So far, only Prince Edward Island and Quebec have permanently-legislated paid sick days. Quebec provides employees with up to two paid sick days per year and up to 26 weeks unpaid job-protected leave in a 12-month period. On PEI, an employee with three months of continuous service can take up to three days of unpaid sick leave in a twelve-month period and, after five years of continuous service, the employee is also entitled to one additional paid day of sick leave, said Hillary MacDonald, senior communications officer for the PEI government, in an email to Benefits Canada.
She said employees on PEI can also take an unpaid leave of absence from work in the event of a public emergency, such as the coronavirus pandemic. The province also enacted a special leave fund during the pandemic, offering temporary support to employees — including self-employed workers — who are unable to work as a result of illness or quarantine requirements and don’t qualify for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit or have access to paid sick leave.
Shortly after the pandemic was declared in March 2020, Yukon enacted legislation that gives employees up to 14 days of unpaid leave and introduced a paid sick-leave rebate that reimburses employers and self-employed workers for up to 10 days’ wages, to a daily maximum of $378.13 per employee. The rebate was recently renewed until Sept. 30, 2021.
In British Columbia, Premier John Horgan has promised paid sick leave but as of April 30, has yet to release details for the program. While employees in B.C. are entitled to three days of unpaid, job-protected leave each year, the province has also introduced an unpaid coronavirus leave if employees are unable to work for reasons stemming from the pandemic, including self-isolation, caring for a family member or by employer order.
Alberta’s Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley is also pushing for employers to provide 10 paid sick days for workers that would be later reimbursed by the province, a plan that she said would replace and be partly funded by the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. In Alberta, an employee can take up to five unpaid days of personal and family responsibility leave per calendar year, however, as of March 5, 2020, all employees in quarantine due to the coronavirus became eligible for 14 days of unpaid leave, regardless of their length of service. They can also take this leave more than once and it can be taken consecutively with any other job-protected leave.
Alberta employees are also entitled to a job-protected, unpaid leave for a period of time necessary to meet their family responsibilities during the pandemic, such as caring for self-isolated family members or children who are unable to attend school or childcare services. Currently, this leave is available until Aug. 14, 2021.
In Saskatchewan, employees who are ill or injured can take up to 12 days of unpaid job-protected leave each year, said Jennifer Toews, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan government, in an email to Benefits Canada. While an employee would normally require at least 13 weeks of employment to qualify for this leave, she said there’s no minimum amount of required service if the absence is a result of a public health emergency. Employees in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan are also eligible for up to three hours of paid leave to receive a coronavirus vaccination.
The Manitoba NDP is also calling for paid sick leave in that province, where workers currently have three unpaid days per year for family responsibilities or personal illness. On April 22, NDP MPP Jamie Moses brought the matter forward in a private member’s resolution.
In Nova Scotia, employees can take up to three days of unpaid sick leave each year. They’re also entitled to an unpaid leave if they’re unable to perform their work because of a public-health emergency and remain eligible for this leave as long as the emergency prevents them from working.
Newfoundland and Labrador employees receive seven unpaid sick days per year, while workers in New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories each get five days of unpaid leave annually. And while sick days aren’t regulated by Nunavut’s labour standards act, the territory recently passed amendments to the act that provide workers with job protection if they take an unpaid leave because of the coronavirus, said Isabelle Gingras, policy and communications analyst for Nunavut’s Department of Justice, in an email to Benefits Canada.