A paid leave for people testing for COVID-19, getting COVID-19 vaccinations, or other COVID-19-related time off needs is continuing this winter.

The Manitoba Pandemic Paid Sick Leave Program, which was first announced in May, was created to fill the gaps between paid federal assistance and the province's paid sick leave standards. Now, Finance Minister Scott Fielding is announcing Monday that it is being extended until March 31.

“We are investing $5 million in the expansion of this program to give Manitobans further assurance that if they are sick, they can stay home without financial repercussions, while also providing employers with financial assistance to accommodate public health guidelines," Fielding says in a statement.

The federal program currently covers four weeks of leave. The $5 million fund would give eligible employers up to $600 per employee to cover five more full days of COVID-19 related leave.

“We will continue to work together with the business community to help Manitoba employers and employees get the kinds of supports they may need to meet the unique challenges presented by the pandemic.”

Employees who are off work for COVID-19 testing, getting their vaccinations and possible side effects that could follow, self-isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms or caring for a loved one in any of these circumstances are eligible.

Since May, roughly 16,300 employees from 4,250 employers have applied for the program. The average amount paid to the employers per worker has been $275.

“We introduced this program to address gaps that exist between the federal Canada Recovery Sickness benefit and provincial employment standards for paid sick leave and the response has been very positive."