The Manitoba government plans to introduce amendments to the Employment Standards Code so more workers can take protected leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic and apply for federal benefits.
“Manitoba has led the way on advocating for a federal paid sick leave program, and we’ll be the first province to move forward with introducing important legislative changes so more Manitobans can access these new federal benefits,” said Premier Brian Pallister. “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.”
The premier has been a strong advocate for a national paid sick leave program for workers affected by COVID-19 since early in Canada’s pandemic response. The federal program came into effect Sept. 27 and Manitoba’s legislation would be retroactive to that date. Amendments to the provincial code are necessary to close gaps between Manitoba’s existing protected leave provisions and the new federal program, and ensure all Manitoba workers eligible for the new Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) are protected if they take a leave of absence from their job to access the benefits.
In April, the Manitoba government introduced unlimited unpaid protected leave for workers required to self-isolate or care for a family member because of the pandemic. To align with federal eligibility criteria, the amendments would extend provincial leave entitlements to include workers who are more susceptible to COVID-19 because of underlying health conditions, ongoing 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,” said Pallister. “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.”
Eligible workers can now apply for the newly available CRSB, which offers $500 per week for up to two weeks, and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit, which provides workers $500 per week for up to 26 weeks to take time off to care for a family member. Once new provincial legislation passes, it would also protect the jobs of workers more susceptible to COVID-19 if they take leave and apply for CRSB.
The new amendments would also allow the province to adapt public health emergency leave provisions by regulation if needed as the pandemic evolves.
Pallister noted the province has consulted and received support on the proposed legislation from the Labour Management Review Committee, an advisory body comprised of business and labour representatives. Organizations such as the Retail Council of Canada support paid sick leave legislation as it would help reduce some of the financial burden retailers and businesses face when a worker takes leave to isolate due to the pandemic.