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

Last Updated Apr 8, 2021 at 12:07 pm PDT


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.

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.

“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.

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Ontario briefly had such laws, but they were repealed by the current government.