Prime Minister Doug Ford’s government is extending its COVID-19 sickness benefit program beyond the scheduled expiration date in late December.
Ontario’s COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Beny will continue until July 31, 2022, Labor Secretary Monte McNaughton told CBC News in an interview Tuesday.
“I’ve been aware to workers throughout this pandemic that paid sick days will be in place for them until we defeat COVID-19,” McNaughton said.
The extension comes with Ontario averaging more new daily cases of COVID-19 than at any time in the past six months, and the province’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table estimates that infection rates will continue to rise into January.
Ontario’s COVID-19 sickness benefit program requires employers to give all their employees up to three paid days off for a variety of reasons related to the pandemic, including being vaccinated against the virus, showing symptoms or caring for a sick family member.
The government reimburses employers who do not normally provide their workers with sickness benefits of up to $ 200 per month. employed per. day.
Despite the extension, McNaughton said the maximum number of paid sick days that each employee can take during the program remains limited to three.
“They are being used for what they were meant to get their children vaccinated. If a son or daughter is to stay home from school, they can use a paid sick day, if they need a mental health day, they can use it. paid sick day, “he said.
The Ford government launched the program in April after months of pressure from public health experts and labor rights advocates as Ontario battled its third wave of pandemics.
Since then, employers have filed sick pay claims for more than 235,000 employees and have been reimbursed more than $ 80 million in wages, according to statistics released by the Department of Labor.
The government budgeted $ 1 billion for the program, so it has not spent a tenth of its allocation. The extension to July 2022 is the second time the government has extended the temporary program.
Earlier Tuesday, the opposition New Democrats pressured the government in the Legislative Assembly on paid sick days.
“In three weeks, workers across Ontario will be without paid sick days,” said Doly Begum, New Democrat MPP for Scarborough-Southwest, referring to the program’s expected expiration on December 31st.
“Eliminating paid sick days as we are on the brink of yet another wave just before this hectic holiday season is more than cruel,” Begum said.
The head of government, Paul Calandra, suggested that the sickness benefit program be extended, but stopped committing to it.
“It’s the right program and it’s made a big difference in the lives of our important workers across this province,” Calandra said. “We will, of course, continue to be there for the workers of the Province of Ontario, not only under COVID, but as we always have been.”