REGINA -- The Government of Saskatchewan has amended the Saskatchewan Employment Act to guarantee access to unpaid job protected leave during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We think it is important for employees to know that the stability of their job security will continue throughout,” said Don Morgan, the Saskatchewan Minister of Labour.

The legislation passed through the house in minutes through full cooperation between the Saskatchewan Party government and the NDP opposition.

The legislation was mirrored after similar proposals by other provinces, but Saskatchewan is the first to pass it. It is primarily aimed at workers who are not protected by union or employer policies. Workers can stay away from their job but might not get paid.

“That's why we have employment insurance. A lot of people have paid sick time already so those are things at this point in time we are not able to address that,” said Morgan.

The New Democrats believe the government needs to take the next step.

“Today I called for a financial aid package to be brought forward immediately, a financial aid package that helps families to have money in their pockets and make it through the end of the month and the months ahead, to keep that money circulating through the local economy,” said Ryan Meili, the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP.

“A package that helps out small businesses so that they are able to keep people employed and keep the doors open."

The government is pushing essential business through the legislature as quickly as possible. This week’s provincial budget is being replaced by a financial statement because of economic uncertainty.

Consideration is also being given to suspending all further business in the legislature and sending MLAs home.

Amendments to the act include:

  • Remove requirement of 13 consecutive weeks of employment with the employer before accessing sick leave
  • Remove need for doctor’s note
  • Introduction of a new unpaid public health emergency leave which can be accessed in a public health emergency and when the province issues an order to take measures to reduce the spread

Amendments will come into effect retroactively on March 6.