HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia is launching a new COVID-19 sick leave program for residents who must take time off work.

Nova Scotians may qualify for up to four paid sick days under the new $16 million program, which is expected to help more than 100,000 residents.

The program is for people who can't work remotely and miss less than 50 per cent of their scheduled work time in a one-week period due to COVID-19.

It includes those who need to take time off because they are awaiting a COVID-19 test appointment, those who are getting tested, are self-isolating while awaiting test results, or are going to get vaccinated.

The sick days do not have to be taken consecutively and any sick days taken between May 10, 2021 and July 31, 2021 may be eligible.

"We want employees to stay home if they are feeling unwell and follow public health protocols to help reduce the spread of COVID," Premier Iain Rankin said in a news release. "Paid sick leave means they won't have to make a difficult decision between their health and the health of others, or their own financial well-being."

The program covers employee wages, including those who are self-employed. The maximum wage is $20 per hour or $160 per day.

The maximum payment over the 12-week period is $640 per worker.

Businesses that continue to pay their employees during their leave will be eligible to be reimbursed by the program.

The program complements the Federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), which may apply after an employee has been off for 50 per cent or more of their scheduled work week.

"There are some gaps that we hope to fill today with a new program,” Rankin said. "We want employees to stay home if they are feeling unwell."

The Nova Scotia Co-operative Council will administer the program on behalf of the province.

The program is welcomed news for the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.

"We have been lobbying for paid sick days for a long time and through our campaign work, we know almost 500 people have sent letters to government in support of paid sick leave," President Danny Cavanagh said in a news release Wednesday.

"Four days will be very helpful to thousands of workers right now as they so desperately need paid time off to protect themselves, their families and their co-workers."

The federation says Nova Scotia's program goes beyond what some other provinces are offering, providing one day more than Ontario and British Columbia.

"Also, there is no requirement for doctor's notes and we are very pleased workers can have paid time off for getting vaccines,” says Cavanagh.

Since the program ends July 31, Cavanagh says the Federation of Labour will continue to push for more paid sick days under the Nova Scotia Labour Standards Act.

"This pandemic will not end on July 31, and as we have said many times before, we are willing to work with the government to establish the plan for permanent paid sick days for all Nova Scotia workers," says Cavanagh.