Manitoba introducing legislation to allow more workers to take protected leave

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government announced on Monday, Oct. 26 that it is proposing legislation so that more workers can take protected leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic and apply for federal benefits.

Premier Brian Pallister said in a news release that Manitoba has led the way for advocating for a federal paid sick leave program, and will be the first province to go ahead with introducing legislative changes so more Manitobans can access federal benefits.

“Our first priority is protecting the health and well-being of all Manitobans, and this legislation would save workers from making the difficult decision whether to earn a paycheque or stay home while sick,” he said.

The province noted the federal program came into effect on Sept. 27, and Manitoba’s legislation would be retroactive to that date.

The province said it needs to make amendments to the provincial code in order to fill the gaps between Manitoba’s protected leave provision and the federal program. These changes will ensure that every Manitoban who is eligible for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) is protected if they take a leave of absence. 

In April, the province introduced unlimited unpaid protected leave for workers who have to self-isolate or care for family members due to the pandemic. The proposed amendments would extend those entitled to leave to any workers who are more susceptible to the disease because of underlying health conditions, medical treatments or other illnesses.

“By expanding the job-protected leave we provided Manitobans in April, we will further protect workers, their families and co-workers during the pandemic,” Pallister said. 

“It’s critical for all Manitobans to stay home when feeling ill, and we must do everything we can to help employers and employees follow public health orders and measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.” 

All eligible workers can now apply for the CRSB, which provides $500 a week for up to two weeks. They can also apply for Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, which gives workers $500 a week for up to 26 weeks so they can take time off to care for a family member.

Once the provincial legislation passes, it will protect the jobs of workers more susceptible to COVID-19 if they take leave and apply for CRSB. The legislation will also allow the province to adapt public health emergency provisions by regulation if necessary.

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