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Nova Scotia workers can now access paid COVID-19 sick days – “stay tuned for the details”

Rick Dunlop and William Wojcik

On May 12th, 2021, the Government of Nova Scotia announced in a news release that it is implementing a COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Program (“Program”) to support workers who must take time off work for COVID-19 related reasons between May 10 and July 31, 2021.

The Program has not been introduced through any legislation or regulations that outline in detail how the Program works. The news release provides relatively few details, but here is what can be gleaned from the news release.

How does the Program work?

Workers who cannot work remotely and miss less than 50% of their scheduled work time in a 1 week period due to COVID-19 related reasons may be eligible.

COVID-19 related reasons include:

  • waiting to get tested for COVID-19;
  • self-isolating while waiting for the results; or
  • going to get vaccinated.

The program complements the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit which compensates individuals who miss more than 50% of their work schedule due to COVID-19.

What time period does the Program cover?

May 10, 2021 to July 31, 2021

How many sick days does the Program cover?

Four and these sick days do not have to be taken consecutively.

How does the Program cover employer costs?

It is a reimbursement program:

  • The eligible employer pays the employee for the time that they missed due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • The employer then applies for reimbursement.

How much of the employer costs does the Program cover?

The Province reimburses the employer based upon the employee’s current rate of pay up to a maximum of $20 per hour or $160 per day. The maximum total payment per employee is capped at $640.

What are the eligibility requirements?

The employer must be:

  • operating;
  • a for-profit business or not-for-profit organization (federal, provincial, municipal governments and crown corporations are not eligible);
  • have a permanent physical location in Nova Scotia;
  • registered to do business in Nova Scotia;
  • be in good standing with the Government of Nova Scotia;
  • paying Nova Scotia-based employees who do not qualify for paid sick leave under their employment agreement and are not receiving benefits from other COVID-19 programs.

Self-employed people can apply as well if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Does this mean that if the employee has the right to paid sick leave in their employment agreement or collective agreement, an employer is not eligible to be reimbursed for their sick leave under the Program?

Yes.

The news release says that “Employers can apply for reimbursement for an employee’s sick days if they…are paying Nova Scotia-based employees who don’t qualify for paid sick leave under their employment agreement…”  We consider that “employment agreement” would also mean a collective agreement given that a collective agreement is a form of employment agreement.

The “these employees and employers are not eligible…” section of the news release mentions “employees who have other sick leave benefits, even if they’ve used them up…”  It is unclear how broadly the phrase “other sick leave benefits” is, but we expect that an employment agreement (or collective agreement) that provides for paid sick leave would qualify as providing other sick leave benefits.

When does an employer have to apply?

Within 90 days of when the employee was paid.

What information does the employer have to provide with its application?

The complete application instructions and details regarding supporting documentation will be posted online, presumably prior to May 26, 2021 when the Program is open for applications.

According to the news release:

  • The employer and employee will have to submit a signed declaration form.
  • There is no need for a doctor’s note.

We will be following the progress of the Program and providing additional information once online applications open on the 26th of May, 2021.


This update is intended for general information only. If you have questions about the above, please contact a member of our Labour & Employment group.

 

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