Manitoba is introducing a new pandemic sick leave benefit.
Employers will get $600 per employee to cover up to five full days of COVID-19-related sick leave, Premier Brian Pallister said at a news conference Friday morning. The sick days do not have to be taken consecutively.
The sick leave can be taken for COVID-19 testing, vaccination appointments, vaccination side-effects, self-isolation after a positive test or caring for a loved one in any of those circumstances.
Many Canadian provinces have faced growing calls to offer paid leave to people who are experiencing COVID-like symptoms but have not received a positive test.
Doctors and nurses, public health officials, mayors, unions, economists and business organizations have all expressed support for leave to make sure workers stay home if they are sick and to help reduce workplace transmission of COVID-19.
WATCH | Premier Brian Pallister introduces paid sick leave benefit:
Across Canada, only about 42 per cent of adults who are employed have access to paid sick days, according to the Manitoba Federation of Labour.
Yukon created a paid sick leave program to battle the pandemic more than a year ago, and the idea is under consideration in B.C.
This week, under pressure to control workplace transmission in COVID-19 hot spots in and around Toronto, Ontario announced it would fund a temporary paid leave program to cover three sick days.
Until now, Pallister has repeatedly put the onus on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to develop a national program. The federal government does offer the Canada sickness recovery benefit, which pays sick employees $500 a week but doesn’t guarantee job security for workers who use it.
Asked by reporters Friday if his delay in instituting sick leave contributed to Manitoba’s third wave of COVID-19 cases, Pallister again blamed the federal government for failing to provide a better program.
“Yes, we could have done it sooner but we were working on good faith that Ottawa was going to develop a program, which they had assured us repeatedly that they would,” Pallister said.
“They did develop a program, but it’s just got these gaps in it, so we’re addressing the gaps.”
Manitoba’s $600-per-employee benefit is available to all private-sector, non-profit and charitable employers.
Employers who currently provide paid sick leave to their employees are not eligible, including federal, provincial and local governments.
Eligible employees are those who reside in Manitoba and work and receive wages in Manitoba on a full- or part-time basis.
The program begins immediately and runs until at least Sept. 25 to coincide with the federal and other provincial programs.