Loading articles...

Federal sickness benefit vs paid sick leave: What's the difference?

Last Updated Apr 8, 2021 at 3:26 pm EDT

Summary

Many premiers have dismissed calls for improved paid sick leave policies, saying federal benefit covers it


Federal benefit offered to those sick with COVID or advised to self-isolate due to the virus


Currently, only two provinces have paid sick leave laws


OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The debate around paid sick leave has been heating up again, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An employment lawyer is helping to clear the air.

Many premiers have dismissed calls to enact provincial paid sick leave laws, arguing the federal government’s Recovery Sickness Benefit takes care of that. But Stuart Rudner of Rudner Law says they are not the same.

The issue also came to a head Wednesday during a press conference with Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who said critics who were calling for paid sick days were “playing politics.”

Related article: Spike in COVID-19 cases sparks renewed calls for improved Canadian paid sick leave

“There are some overlaps, but you could never say that the sickness benefit completely replaces paid sick days,” Rudner said.

The federal benefit is a set amount of $450 per week for up to four weeks.

“You’re eligible if you are unable to work for at least half of your scheduled work week because you are either sick with COVID or even advised to self-isolate because of COVID,” he said.

But sick leave is paid by the employer, not the government.

Critics have also said the sickness benefit has had poor uptake and is more akin to the government’s employment insurance program than paid sick days.

“That is an agreement you have with your employer, but there is a minimum that is legislatively required,” Rudner said, noting employment laws around sick leave fall under provincial jurisdiction.

“The procedure is very simple: You call in sick, you may have to produce some sort of documentation, and you are paid for that day even if you didn’t work. It’s generally very easy,” he added.

While many businesses offer paid sick days, many don’t, including smaller businesses in retail, hospitality and the service sector.

Quebec and Prince Edward Island are the only two provinces that have paid sick leave laws, requiring employers to provide two days and one, respectively.

Ontario briefly had such laws, but they were repealed by the current government.

With files from The Canadian Press