Employment & Legal Resources

Changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) and Job Protected Leave

On March 16th, the Province of Ontario announced legislation which provides job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or daycare closures. The legislation ensures that an employee will not be required to provide a medical note if they take the leave. The measures would be retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario.

What this means for businesses:

  • Employees will have the right to job-protected leave for COVID-19 quarantine or isolation purposes, or to care for children.
  • Employees will not have to provide a medical note for COVID-19 leave.
  • Job protection for COVID-19 leave will be in effect from January 25th, 2020 onwards.

Details below:

The Government of Ontario has recently amended the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) to provide an additional job-protected, unpaid leave of absence (Infectious Disease Emergency Leave) if an employee will not be performing the duties of his or her position because of various reasons related to a designated infectious disease. Those reasons include:

1. that the employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment;
2. that the employee is subject to an order of a medical officer of health or a court under the Health Protection and Promotion Act;
3. that the employee is in quarantine or isolation undertaken because of information or direction of a public health official, qualified health practitioner, Telehealth Ontario, the governments of Ontario or Canada, a municipal council or a board of health;
4. that an employer directs the employee to stay at home because of concerns that the employee might expose others in the workplace to the designated infectious disease;
5. that the employee is providing care to a specified individual; or,
6. that the employee is affected by travel restrictions preventing them the employee from returning to Ontario.

Changes to Employment Insurance

The Federal government announced changes to Employment Insurance, in light of recent events. Service Canada will support Canadians affected by COVID-19 and placed in quarantine, with the following support actions:

  • Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Canadians quarantined can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits.
  • People claiming EI sickness benefits due to quarantine will not have to provide a medical certificate
  • The one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantined so they can be paid for the first week of their claim.
  • Establishing a new dedicated toll-free phone number to support inquiries related to waiving the EI sickness benefits waiting period.
  • Priority EI application processing for EI sickness claims for clients under quarantine.
  • Contact the new dedicated toll-free phone number if you are in quarantine and seeking to waive the one-week EI sickness benefits waiting period so you can be paid for the first week of your claim:
    • Telephone: 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free)
    • Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-529-3742

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

This benefit provides support for up to 16 weeks for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  This taxable benefit would provide $2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This benefit replaces the Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit.

The CERB provides a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to:

  • workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
  • workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
  • workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
  • wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for Employment Insurance.

Canadians would begin to receive their CERB payments within 10 days of application. 

Click here for full eligibility details on the CERB.

Those who have already applied for EI do not need to re-apply for the CERB, you will automatically be switched over.

Who is a “worker” under CERB program? 

  • A worker is defined as a person who is at least 15 years of age, is a resident in Canada and who in 2019 (or in the 12 months before applying) had an income of at least $5,000 from (a) employment (b) self-employment (c) certain EI benefits.
  • A worker is eligible for an income support payment if
    (a) the worker, whether employed or self-employed, ceases working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in respect of which they apply for the payment; and
    (b) they do not receive income in respect of the consecutive days on which they have ceased working

The portal for accessing the CERB will be available April 6.

You can get ready to apply online by setting up your CRA My Account now, and signing up for direct deposit to get your benefit more quickly.

For details, call 1-800-959-2019.

Legal Help Available at Gowling WLG

The Gowling WLG COVID-19 page linked here provides you with answers to your legal questions on a variety of topics like breach of contract due to supply chain and COVID-19 issues; employment issues; insurance considerations; and contract issues to name a few. Gowling WLG Hamilton lawyers, Michael Bordin and Scott Beattie, are also available to assist.

Protecting Employees and Knowing Your Rights as an Employer

COVID-19 and Ontario Workplaces: Learn about your rights and responsibilities in our current pandemic. See bulletin provided by Ross&McBride here.