More Manitoba workers eligible for paid sick leave during pandemic: new bill

More Manitoba workers who need paid sick leave will get it, thanks to new legislation that became law on Wednesday. 

The amended bill was sped through the Manitoba Legislature two days after it was introduced.

The governing Progressive Conservatives wanted to pass the legislation on Monday, but it was held up by the Manitoba Liberals, who felt the bill should include provincial money in cases where a worker requires a leave of absence more than once.

Ultimately, the legislation was passed Wednesday as it was originally written, and with the Liberals’ approval. 

“We are pleased to see this bill pass quickly so that all Manitobans don’t have to make the difficult decision of protecting themselves and their loved ones or collecting a paycheque,” Premier Brian Pallister said in a statement. 

Manitobans have been able to access federal paid sick leave for the last month. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

Manitobans could have already accessed paid sick leave, which the federal government introduced in September for employees who otherwise couldn’t apply if they become ill or have to self-isolate due to COVID-19.

The new provincial legislation ensures that workers more susceptible to COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions, ongoing medical treatments or other illnesses could also receive a leave of absence. It was already available to workers who have to stay home when sick, or self-isolate, because of COVID-19.

As well, these workers cannot be penalized by their employer if they take a leave and apply for the federal benefit. 

The Liberals had been criticized by both the PCs and NDP for denying same-day approval to the bill. The other parties had said Manitobans were effectively prevented from accessing paid sick leave, which Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont insisted was never the case. 

“The NDP and PCs did a disservice to Manitobans by telling them they could not apply for a federal program that has been up and running for weeks,” Lamont said in a statement.

“We certainly hope no one delayed applying or is missing out because the PCs and NDP falsely told them they couldn’t.”

Lamont said the party remains concerned the legislation is not supported with provincial funds.

He said the party fought to eliminate the clause that would permit employers to demand doctor’s notes, but Lamont said in an email the government insisted it wouldn’t demand that.