Despite government entreaties , many Canadians did not resist the temptation to travel to sunny locations over the Christmas holiday. (RomoloTavani/iStock)

Government cracks down on travellers claiming sick benefits

The Canadian government offers money to people who need to stay home from work because of COVID-19. But some people have claimed the benefits for the time they are obliged to quarantine after returning from travel abroad. The government says it will pass legislation retroactive to January 3, 2021 to ensure that travellers cannot do that. 

The Canadian government has strongly urged all Canadians to avoid non-essential travel. There has been much consternation over news that several government officials travelled over the Christmas holidays in spite of that. There has also been news about many Canadians who have ignored the advice and have travelled to warmer southern locations and elsewhere. Adding to the outrage is news that some have claimed the federal sick benefits because they are obliged to quarantine for 14 day after travelling abroad and cannot work. 

Before coming to Canada, travellers must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, then upon arrival they must quarantine for 14 days. (CBC)

Benefit ‘not intended to encourage Canadians to disobey’

“The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit was created to provide workers with a paid sick leave option. We did this so that workers did not have to choose between going to work while impacted by COVID-19 and putting food on the table,” said Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough in a statement. “The benefit was not intended to encourage Canadians to disobey public health and international travel guidelines. We have heard Canadians and are tightening the eligibility criteria for our COVID recovery benefits.”

During the pandemic, over two million people have accessed these sick benefits which are worth $500 a week for up to two weeks. The benefits are designed for people who are unable to work at least half of their scheduled work week because they are sick, under quarantine or because they must self-isolate due to COVID-19. They also are for people who are more susceptible to the disease because they have an underlying condition. 

As of January 3, 202, people applying for the benefit will have to indicate whether they were self-isolating or in quarantine due to international travel. 

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