The province of Nova Scotia has introduced a new paid sick leave program for Nova Scotians who need to take time off work due to COVID-19.
Under the new, $16-million program, people may now qualify for up to four paid sick days between May 10 and July 31.
“We want employees to stay home if they are feeling unwell and follow public health protocols to help reduce the spread of COVID,” said Premier Iain Rankin in a release.
“Paid sick leave means they won’t have to make a difficult decision between their health and the health of others, or their own financial well-being.”
The program is open to people who can’t work remotely and who miss less than 50 per cent of their scheduled work time in a one-week period due to COVID-19.
That includes workers who need to take time off because they’re waiting for a PCR test appointment and those who need to self-isolate while awaiting test results, or are going to get vaccinated.
The sick days do not need to be taken consecutively. The program will cover employee wages, including the wages of self-employed people, up to a maximum of $20 per hour, or $160 per day.
The maximum payment over the 12-week period is $640 per worker and eligible businesses that continue to pay their employees during their leave will be eligible to be reimbursed by the sick leave program.
“The program complements the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), which may apply after an employee has been off for 50 per cent or more of their scheduled work week,” the release said.
Applications for the program will open on May 26.
Federation of Labour ‘pleased’
Paid sick leave has been a huge topic of discussion during COVID-19, with labour advocates across the country and beyond calling for them to be put in place.
While advocates have long been calling for paid sick leave, they say the pandemic in particular has shone a light on the importance of being able to stay home when you’re sick.
In Nova Scotia, the NDP has introduced legislation to create 10 paid sick days for all workers in the Labour Standards Code.
B.C. and Ontario have already implemented paid sick leave programs during the pandemic, with both provinces offering three paid sick days.
A release from the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour Wednesday afternoon said Danny Cavanagh, the federation’s president, was “pleased” with the announcement.
“We have been lobbying for paid sick days for a long time and through our campaign work, we know almost 500 people have sent letters to government in support of paid sick leave,” he said in the release.
“Four days will be very helpful to thousands of workers right now as they so desperately need paid time off to protect themselves, their families and their co-workers.”
Cavanagh also said he was glad there is no requirement for doctor’s notes, and that workers can get paid time off for getting vaccines.
He said the federation will push for the sick leave program to be made permanent under the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Act.
“This pandemic will not end on July 31, and as we have said many times before, we are willing to work with the government to establish the plan for permanent paid sick days for all Nova Scotia workers,” said Cavanagh.