Paid COVID-19 Leave for Employees - current to June 2021

**Written by Adele Zhang, Summer Student at Lee Workplace Law

Earlier this year, Ontario introduced paid COVID-19 leave for employees taking time off work due to COVID-19 related reasons, including vaccination. The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) also indicated that workers may be eligible to receive compensation if they have an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine where immunization is required by the employer.

COVID-19 Leave for Employees

Ontario's COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act was passed on April 29, 2021. This Act amended the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA) and now requires employers to provide eligible employees with up to $200 per day for up to three days leave for COVID-19 related needs. Legitimate leave reasons include getting a COVID-19 test, receiving a vaccine, experiencing side effects from the vaccine, quarantining, and taking care of a dependent who has COVID-19.

If an employee is already entitled to paid sick days under their contract or workplace leave policies, their entitlement to take paid COVID-19 leave is reduced by their contractual entitlement.

This program will apply retroactively for claims between April 19, 2021 to September 25, 2021. Eligible employees do not need to provide medical documentation to take their three-day leave. Should an employee need to take this leave, they must contact their employer directly.

Employers can apply to the WSIB for reimbursement if an employee takes paid COVID-19 leave days outside of existing workplace leave policies. Reimbursement will cover the cost of each employee who receives pay pursuant to this new provision. All claims for reimbursement must be made within 120 days of the paid leave being provided to the employee, and, in any event, by no later than January 25, 2022.

Compensation for Adverse Reactions to the COVID-19 Vaccine

If an employee is required to receive a vaccine for work-related reasons and has experienced an adverse reaction to the vaccine, they may be entitled to WSIB benefits.

First, the vaccination must be a mandatory part of the worker's employment. This generally means that the employer has implemented a rule or policy that requires employees to be vaccinated. Coercive methods such as threats of termination or workplace penalties may also make vaccination compulsory for the employee.

Other factors that may be considered by the WSIB include: whether the vaccine was administered during personal or company time; whether the vaccine was administered offsite or on company property; and whether receiving the vaccination was genuinely optional.

Second, the employee must suffer from an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. An adverse reaction is a serious, unexpected reaction, and generally does not include common side effects such as dizziness, fever, and fatigue. An adverse reaction typically requires medical treatment beyond first aid or an absence from work longer than just a few days. The WSIB considers the severity or duration of the reaction to determine whether it qualifies as an adverse reaction.

If these two requirements are met, then the worker must report this to their employer and file a claim for WSIB to determine their eligibility for benefits.

For more information about eligibility for COVID-19 claims, consult the WSIB's FAQ.


Ontario employers are now obliged to provide employees with paid time off for COVID-19 related reasons, including vaccination against COVID-19. On the flipside, employees are now entitled to receive compensation for time off work due to COVID-19, even in the absence of medical documentation. Moreover, employees who suffer adverse reaction from compulsory COVID-19 vaccination may be eligible for compensation from the WSIB.

Employers and employees alike are encouraged to educate themselves on their COVID-19 related rights and obligations. Our team at Lee Workplace Law can answer any questions you may have and help ensure you are armed with the facts during this difficult time.