Further Measures Announced in Relation to COVID-19
Date: April 20, 2020
Late last week, the Ontario government amended a number of measures already introduced in light of COVID-19. It updated the “COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool” to include an expanded list of symptoms for which self-isolation is required. It made further orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act regarding health care, an expanded list of essential workers eligible for child care and seasonal campgrounds. The federal government provided more information on initiatives already underway, including with respect to the eligibility requirements for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
In this Issue
- Ontario Expands Grounds for Self-Isolation
- Federal Government Provides Further Information on Financial Initiatives
- Further Measures Enacted by Ontario as a Result of COVID-19
Ontario Expands Grounds for Self-Isolation
Ontario employers should take note that the province has updated its COVID-19 Self- Assessment Tool in a manner that significantly expands the grounds for self-isolation.
The province released the updated tool on April 16, 2020. Most significantly, it identifies a long list of symptoms that will lead to a self-isolation direction. These symptoms are:
- Cough that’s new or worsening (continuous, more than usual)
- Barking cough, making a squeaky or whistling noise when breathing (croup)
- Shortness of breath (out of breath, unable to breathe deeply)
- Falling down more than usual
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hoarse voice (more rough or harsh than normal)
- Runny nose
- Stuffy or congested nose
- Lost sense of taste or smell
- Digestive issues (nausea/vomiting diarrhea, stomach pain)
- Young children and infants: sluggishness or loss of appetite
(Note that this list is current as of April 20, 2020 and may change. Reference should be made to the self-assessment tool.)
Those who experience any of the above symptoms are directed to self-isolate, though the direction as to obtaining medical care and coming out of self-isolation depends on symptomology. Some symptoms will trigger a direction to contact a doctor or Telehealth Ontario and self-isolate until a doctor or nurse advises them they may leave home again. Others (presumably those less serious) will trigger a direction to simply self-isolate for 14 days.
For anyone directed to self-isolate, the assessment tool also stipulates, “You must tell people to self-isolate if you were in close contact them in the two days before your symptoms began.” The province has now defined close contact to mean (a) a face-to-face conversation for 15 minutes or (b) being in the same room for two hours.
The updated self-assessment tool continues to rely on other risk factors, such as travel and age. Notably, the province has lowered the age-related threshold for self-isolation – now directing everyone 65 years of age or older to self-isolate (changed from 70).
These new directions will have an impact on site screening protocols and employee entitlement to infectious disease emergency leave. It will also affect how employers respond to reports of a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Federal Government Provides Further Information on Financial Initiatives
Over the past few days, the federal government has provided further information on its various financial initiatives. This is what you need to know.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit
On April 15, 2020, Prime Minister Trudeau announced expanded eligibility rules for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provides $2,000 every four weeks (up to four months) for workers who have lost their income as a result of the COVID-19.
In addition to the eligibility requirements discussed in our FTR Now of March 26, 2020, New Canada Emergency Response Benefit and Tax Relief Measures, eligibility for the CERB has been expanded to include:
- seasonal workers who have exhausted their employment insurance regular benefits and are unable to undertake their regular seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and
- workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
In addition, the government also announced that workers may now earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
These changes are retroactive to March 15, 2020.
Note that by way of regulation registered under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act (CERB Act), the government has confirmed that the weekly income support is $500.
Wage Boost for Essential Workers
The federal government is working with the provinces on a cost-share arrangement regarding a new temporary top-up for workers deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19 and who make less than $2,500 a month. As stated in the government’s backgrounder, such workers include those working in hospitals, long-term care facilities and essential retail services, among others. Details will be released as they become available.
Canada Emergency Business Account
On April 16, 2020, the Prime Minister announced that there will be expanded criteria for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to assist small business struggling with cash flow. Under the CEBA, the government is guaranteeing $40,000 loans to small businesses.
The eligibility thresholds have been expanded such that businesses who spent between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total 2019 payroll (from the initial threshold of $50,000 to $1 million in total 2019 payroll) may now apply for a loan through the CEBA.
The Prime Minister also announced a new initiative, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance, which will provide loans (including forgivable loans) to commercial property owners so that they can lower or forego the rent owed by small business in the months of April, May and June of 2020. The federal government will be co-ordinating with the provinces regarding this initiative.
Changes to the Employment Insurance Act
On April 15, 2020, the federal government published an Interim Order Amending the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Emergency Response Benefit). This order amends the Employment Insurance Act (EI Act) to provide that persons who qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) regular or sickness benefits under the regular rules will receive the EI Emergency Response Benefit (EI ERB).
It also provides that a person who ceases working for reasons related to COVID-19 can qualify for the EI ERB through eligibility rules which are largely the same as under the CERB Act, but slightly modified. For the EI ERB, a claimant who does not otherwise meet the criteria for a regular or sickness EI benefit must have seven days without work and earnings, as is the case for regular EI (i.e. the 14 day CERB rule does not apply), in each two-week period. The $5,000 income test is based on “insurable earnings”, which has a specific meaning in the EI Act.
A claimant cannot receive a benefit under both the EI Act and under the CERB Act.
The EI ERB is deemed to have come into force on March 15, 2020. It will be paid at the rate of $500 a week to a maximum of 16 weeks.
Further Measures Enacted by Ontario as a Result of COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the Ontario government continues to issue Orders under the Emergency Protection and Civil Management Act (EMCPA) to address the constantly changing circumstances. On April 16, 2020 the government filed four new orders under the EMPCA, which came into effect on that date.
The government also filed a regulatory amendment under the Ambulance Act in light of the COVID-19, which also came into effect on April 16, 2020.
LHIN Deployment of Employees of Service Provider Organizations
On April 16, 2020, the provincial government made an Order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), O. Reg 156/20 Deployment of Employees of Service Provider Organizations. It authorizes local health integration networks (LHINs) to request a contracted service provider organization to provide health care and related social services to settings identified by the LHIN.
The Order defines “contracted service provider organization” (Organization) as a person who provides homemaking services, personal support services, or professional services within the meaning of the Home Care and Community Services Act, 1994, which are purchased by the LHIN.
A LHIN is authorized under the Order to request that an Organization provide health care and related social services, other than community services, in a setting identified by the LHIN, and to fund those services, despite any statute, regulation, policy, arrangement or agreement that provides otherwise.
An Organization is authorized to accept the LHIN’s request and to deploy its employees to provide the requested services. It is not mandated to do so. Similarly, the employees of an Organization are not required to agree to provide the requested services.
The powers granted under the Order will require a collaborative effort between the LHINs, the Organizations and their employees to address deployment issues.
LHINs and Organizations must continue to comply with any other order issued under the EMCPA or with any directive or order issued under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
Limiting Work to a Single Retirement Home
Long-term care and retirement homes have seen expansive outbreaks of COVID-19 and, therefore, it is no surprise that the provincial government is taking steps to try limit the spread of the virus in these organizations, while also attempting to ensure that they are appropriately staffed to ensure proper care to their residents.
On April 16, 2020, the provincial government made an Order under the EMCPA, O. Reg 158/20, Limiting Work to A Single Retirement Home, which limits the deployment authority previously granted to retirement homes by O. Reg. 118/20 (see our FTR Now Retirement Homes Given Staffing Powers in Light of COVID-19 for information on O. Reg 118/20).
Effective immediately, and in any event by no later than 9:00 a.m. on April 20, 2020, all employees of a licensee (within the meaning of the Retirements Homes Act, 2010) must inform each of their employers (who are either health service providers as defined in section 2(1) of the Connecting Care Act, or any other licensee) if they are working in more than one retirement home or for other health service providers.
Effective 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday April 22, 2020, employees of a licensee must not perform work at more than one retirement home or for another health service provider. Effective at the same time, licensees must ensure that any employee performing work in their retirement homes is not performing work in another retirement home or as an employee of a health service provider.
The EMCPA provides that employees of licensees who are complying with this Order shall not have their employment terminated. The Order also states that employee must comply with the terms of the Order despite any provision in a collective agreement.
Retirement homes are required to post a copy of this Order in a conspicuous location within their workplace.
The Potential Impact of the Order
Employees subject to this Order are essentially freed from their obligations to their other employers – such as an obligation to make oneself available or to comply with particular attendance or scheduling requirements – and their employers are precluded from dismissing them due to their compliance with the Order.
While the actual impact of this Order is yet to be seen, it will effectively prohibit employees of licensed retirement homes from working at multiple locations effective 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, and until such time that the order expires or is rescinded.
This, in and of itself, may create staffing issues as retirement home employees will no longer be available to provide services to other retirement homes or perform work for other health service provider (presumably for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency). Employers will need to be prepared to address the staffing impacts that may arise, and may need to utilize the powers given to them under the emergency Orders previously issued specifically for the health service providers, long term-care homes and the retirement home sectors in order to do so.
Expansion of Eligibility for Emergency Child Care
On April 17, 2020, the government announced that it would be expanding the list of essential workers eligible to receive emergency child care in order to provide support to additional frontline employees. The revised list includes:
- Staff working in developmental services, victim services, violence against women services, anti-human trafficking services and child welfare services (children’s aid societies) and in children’s residential settings
- First Nations constables
- Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management fire investigators
- Select critical staff in community corrections, such as probation and parole officers
- Contractors in institutional corrections services
- Frontline staff at the Provincial Forensic Pathology Unit
- Critical staff at the Centre of Forensic Sciences
- Critical staff operating the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.
- Staff working in shelters (e.g. serving homeless populations)
- Power workers
- Pharmaceutical and medical supplies and device manufacturing workers
- Non-municipal water and waste-water employees
- Federally employed staff including Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada Border Services Agent (CBSA) officers and Canada Post employees.
The Ontario Ministry of Education will be working with municipalities and District Social Services Administration Boards, as well as First Nations communities, to implement these emergency child care centres in communities across the province.
Non-Essential Business List Amended to Remove Seasonal Campgrounds
On April 16, 2020, the government made an order under the EMCPA amending its list of non-essential businesses to remove the reference to “seasonal campgrounds.” Seasonal campgrounds will now be entitled to remain open during the declared emergency period in a limited capacity and subject to the following restrictions:
- they can only be provided to individuals who do not have another residence in Canada and who are in need of housing during the emergency period
- only campsites with electricity, water service and facilities for sewage disposal can be provided for use
- the campsites can only be made available for trailers and recreational vehicles
- all recreational and other shared facilities on the campground (e.g. bathrooms) are required to remain closed.
Regulatory Amendments to the Ambulance Act
On April 16, 2020, the government filed an amendment to the General Regulation made under the Ambulance Act. This amendment loosens some of the administrative and certification requirements on individuals providing land ambulance services. The changes include:
- A temporary change to the requirements for advanced emergency medical care assistants to permit them to provide services without having passed the advanced emergency medical care examination in limited circumstances.
- A temporary lifting of the requirement for emergency medical attendants and paramedics to obtain re-certification at 12 month intervals.
- A temporary expansion of the accepted qualifications for emergency medical attendants.
- A temporary removal of the requirement for advanced care paramedics to have passed an advanced care paramedic examination.
Should you require further information, please contact any of the authors listed above, or your regular Hicks Morley lawyer.
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