The Ontario government has released its 2023 budget. The budget has confirmed that Ontario will end its temporary paid sick day program on March 31, 2023, under the paid Infection Disease Emergency Leave program or “IDEL.”
To remind our readers, the IDEL program provided up to three paid sick days to workers for COVID-19 related absences from work such as isolation, caring for sick relatives, testing or vaccination, etc. It was initially set up in 2021 where it amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) to ensure that employers provided their workers with up to three days’ pay if they were away from work due to the above-noted reasons.
Eligible employers should apply to be reimbursed for these payments made to workers with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board if they applied within 120 days of the date the employer paid the employee, or by July 29, 2023, whichever is earlier. IDEL was also extended several times by regulation. It was last extended in July 2022 with a set expiration date of March 31, 2023.
What about unpaid IDEL leave?
Unpaid IDEL is still available to workers. For instance, individuals are still being told by their doctors to ensure that they self-isolate for 5 days if they are sick with COVID-19. Employees have the right to take unpaid leave for reasons of COVID-19. Employers may make reasonable inquires with the employee to determine what the circumstances are to verify with the employee that they are in fact taking unpaid IDEL leave. However, to be clear, there is no set time or number of days that an employee may take IDEL and IDEL is only available with respect to COVID-19 and no other infectious diseases. Also to remind, individuals are still entitled to protection and accommodation under the Ontario Human Rights Code, 1990, and any inquiry as to the employee’s disability must not be unduly intrusive in terms of the information that is being sought by the employer.