One of the most debated topics during the pandemic has been paid sick leave. Employees who had plenty of banked sick days may have started using them. People quarantining or waiting for test results might have already used up their sick days.

Other employers simply haven’t been able to offer paid sick leave, due to financial strain. Yet medical experts across Canada have called for paid sick leave, especially for essential workers, to help stop the spread. As a result, many provinces have considered offering paid sick leave, with some implementing policies about it.

What does paid sick leave look like across Canada, and what does it mean for you? Our guide takes a look at what employers and employees can expect coast to coast.

Permanent Paid Sick Leave in PEI and Quebec

So far, Quebec and PEI have introduced permanent legislation on paid sick leave.

Quebec’s law offers employees up to two paid sick days every year. The law also enacts unpaid job-protected leave for up to 26 weeks in a 12-week period.

In PEI, only employees with five or more years of continuous service gain access to paid sick leave. They’re entitled to one paid sick day. Employees who have worked more than three months but less than five years are entitled to three days of unpaid sick leave in a 12-month period.

PEI also has a fund that provides assistance to those who are unable to work due to illness or quarantine and don’t qualify for CRSB or other paid sick leave.

Temporary Pandemic Programs for Paid Sick Leave

On April 30, after months of debate, Ontario added temporary paid sick leave to its pandemic relief legislation. The program is retroactive to April 19 and expires on September 25.

Under this legislation, employers can apply for reimbursement when they pay out for sick days. The government is offering up to $200 back per day of sick leave.

The government will only reimburse up to three days of paid sick leave for the same employee. This is long enough for someone to get COVID-19 test results back, but not enough to cover a 10- to 14-day self-isolation or quarantine period. It also wouldn’t cover employees who need to be tested repeatedly.

Yukon is the only other jurisdiction to have introduced a temporary reimbursement scheme for paid sick leave. The territory introduced its legislation shortly after the pandemic broke out last March. The daily maximum for reimbursement is almost double what Ontario offers, and it provides 10 days of wages for employers and self-employed workers. The program also provides employees with up to 14 days of unpaid leave. The program was renewed through September 30, 2021.

Other Provinces Pushing for Paid Leave

Most other Canadian provinces are pushing for some form of paid sick leave, although many have unpaid sick leave legislation in place already.

In BC, the premier promised to introduce paid sick leave. Under BC law, employees have three unpaid, job-protected days. A temporary program provides extra unpaid leave if an employee is unable to work for reasons pertaining to the pandemic.

In Saskatchewan, employees can take up to 12 unpaid days. Given the pandemic, the province has waived the requirement that employees must have logged at least 13 weeks of service before they qualify for unpaid sick leave.

In BC, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, employees are eligible for up to three hours of paid leave to receive a vaccination. Alberta also offers five unpaid personal and family responsibility leave per calendar year. This was expanded to 14 days as of March 5, 2020. Employees can take this leave more than once if needed. Job-protected family responsibility leave is also available, until August 14.

In Manitoba, workers have three unpaid days per year. Some MPPs are pushing for paid sick leave. In Nova Scotia, employees have three unpaid sick days; in Newfoundland and Labrador, employees have seven. New Brunswick and Northwest Territories offer five days each. Nunavut is the only jurisdiction without some form of unpaid sick legislation on the books, although the territory recently introduced amendments to labour law.

What Does This Mean for Employers and Employees?

While the situation is a patchwork of laws across provinces and territories, this means that most Canadian workers are eligible for some form of unpaid leave into the fall of 2021. In most places, this is job-protected, which means that employers cannot let employees go over taking unpaid leave. Many provinces and territories have expanded their leave programs, although the unpaid sick days are not “unlimited.”

Paid sick days are much more restricted, and many health advocates say the policies are not enough to help curb the pandemic.

Employers will likely find they need more robust leave management policies and technology to help them keep track of employees’ paid and unpaid leave. They may also find that they have more paperwork, especially in provinces where reimbursement for paid sick days is available.

In a world where the pandemic has already created many challenges for employers, this isn’t exactly welcome news. Make sure you have the right technology on your side to help you manage paid and unpaid sick leave, both now and after the pandemic.