Labour & Employment Law Insights

Ontario Government to Amend Employment Standards Act, 2000 for Job Protection amidst COVID-19 Outbreak

March 16, 2020 | By Derek Klatt

Employment Standards | Legislation | Employment

COVID-19 Update

On March 16, 2020, the Ontario Government announced that it intends to table legislation that, if passed, would amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to immediately provide job protection for employees who are required to take leaves of absence as a result of isolation, quarantine, or to care for children because of school or daycare closures. The amendments would be retroactive to January 25, 2020.

Immediate Amendments to the ESA

While the specific language of any proposed amendments to the ESA have not yet been put forward, the Ontario Government announced that job protection would be provided to employees on leaves of absence for any of the following reasons: 

  • The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
  • The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
  • The employee is in isolation or quarantine.
  • The employee is acting in accordance with public health information or direction.
  • The employer directs the employee not to work.
  • The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or daycare closure.

In addition, the Government announced that employers will be prohibited from requiring an employee to provide a medical note in support of a leave of absence for purposes of self-isolation, quarantine, or care of family members in self-isolation or quarantine. In addition, the amendments will require an employee who requires time off work as a result of COVID-19 to notify their employer immediately.
 
The Ontario Government has stated that the amendments to the ESA will be retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date of the first presumptive COVID-19 case in Ontario. 

Employment Insurance Availability

Employees and employers alike should also be aware that on March 11, 2020, the federal government announced that it will be waiving the mandatory one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits for those workers who are in quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate as a result of the COVID-19. The one-week waiting period waiver is not applicable to employees who experience work shortages as a result of temporary lay-offs or store closures. 

Although the Federal Government’s announcement does not appear to provide coverage for voluntary self-isolation, it remains to be seen whether the Federal Government will relax EI guidelines to encourage greater social distancing efforts. 

Future Updates

Our firm continues to closely monitor the developments surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and will continue to provide further updates as new information becomes available. 

Need more information?

For more information regarding workplace management amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, contact Derek Klatt at 416-408-5506, or your regular lawyer at the firm.

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