COVID leaves, sick time and restriction updates
As we enter 2022 with the addition of the Omicron variant, many of us are struggling with staffing concerns and categorizing of leave times. To ensure that we all head into the new year well informed and prepared, here are some highlights to remember.
First and foremost we need to be mindful of the amount of time an employee is away without pay. Anytime we have an employee who has a interruption of earnings. If you issue ROEs electronically and your pay period is weekly, biweekly (every two weeks), or semi-monthly (twice a month, usually the fifteenth and last day of the month), you have up to five calendar days after the end of the pay period in which an employee's interruption of earnings occurs to issue an electronic ROE. When an employee has had or is anticipated to have seven consecutive calendar days with no work and no insurable earnings from the employer, an interruption of earnings occurs.
This also leads us into managing regional paid provisions. If the employee is entitled to adhoc paid days off for the situation, and you are aware that they will be absent long enough to trigger an ROE, it may be prudent to NOT utilize those paid days, as they may be needed down the road for small absences for issues such as vaccination reactions ( boosters are here!), family and personal testing wait times or for a single day top up (think about a Monday shift after an issue). Conversely, staff may not be interested or able to manage financially through the federal payment claim process so using those days may be their only option, just be sure they are aware of the position that may leave them in down the road.
Paid time off provisions vary by jurisdiction, here is some information on many of the provincial programs.
BC- Although not specifically titled for pandemic or COVID related issues, staff are entitled to paid time off, you can read more about paid sick leave here.
Alberta- The province has a number of unpaid leaves that are available including family and personal responsibility, COVID-19 leave and long term illness.
Saskatchewan- Staff are generally entitled to 12 days of unpaid sick leave, additional time off may be granted for specific situations.
Manitoba- There are a number of leave provisions that may apply here. In particular staff are entitled to paid time off for vaccinations, as well as up to five paid sick days under the Manitoba Pandemic Sick Leave provisions.
Ontario- The WIPB benefit has been extended so that staff that have not utilized their 3 days of paid leave, may continue to access that benefit, as well as access to various unpaid leave provisions. Also, be reminded that those that can work from home are expected to do so.
Quebec- There are various leaves available for staff that have COVID related absences. As well, mandatory work from home provisions are in place.
NFLD and Labrador- As with most provinces, there are multiple unpaid leaves to cover absences from the workplace due to COVID 19, and just like other jurisdictions, these include provisions related to care of others, childcare issues as well as actual illness.
Nova Scotia- In addition to existing unpaid leaves, the province is re-launching the paid sick leave program. Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Program is expected to relaunch January 10, 2022, and be in place until March 31, 2022. The program will be retroactive to include sick days starting from December 20, 2021.
The program will again cover employee wages, including wages of self-employed people, up to a maximum of $20 per hour or $160 per day. The maximum payment over the 15-week period is $640 per worker. Eligible businesses that continue to pay their employees during their leave may be reimbursed by the program.
New Brunswick- Existing leave options remain in effect as we enter 2022 so remember if staff are a risk to the health and safety of others, they should not be in attendance at the dealership.
PEI- The island has multiple leave options within the ESA that cover employees for unpaid leave due to COVID, ensure that leave entitlements are being assigned appropriately.
Finally, in addition to leave issues, nearly all jurisdictions have re-instated restrictions. Most COVID related business restrictions vary by public health region so be sure to check with your local agency for applicable changes in your area. Some key highlights to be aware of are the re-implementation of work from home provisions, reduced capacity limits for dealerships ( Ontario had recently returned to a 50% capacity limit) , more restricted test drive requirements and changes to the availability of PCR testing ( and therefore quarantine requirements). As the symptoms of Omicron are similar to the common cold, this reminds us that those that are exhibiting symptoms should remain at home and follow the public health guidelines for their area. This may include the addition of rapid testing, lengthy wait times for PCR results ( or denial of PCR testing) , short term quarantine, isolation for staff with sick family members and other unexpected absences. Continue to screen your staff at the start of each shift and maintain social distancing, proper PPE and sanitization practices to avoid outbreaks in your dealerships.
If you need assistance with managing these absence and time keeping challenges, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org .