Emergency Order Issued Which Relates to Mental Health and Addiction Agencies
Date: April 23, 2020
On April 22, 2020, the Ontario government issued an Order (O. Reg. 163/20) under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) that applies to not-for-profit entities that receive funding from the Ministry of Health or from a Local Health Integration Network and which provide community mental health and addiction services. The Order applies for the duration of the declared emergency under the EMCPA.
Under the terms of the Order, mental health and addictions agencies are authorized to take, with respect to work deployment and staffing, any reasonably necessary measures to respond to, prevent and alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19, and to respond to consequences arising from COVID-19.
Staffing and Work Deployment
The Order specifically authorizes mental health and addictions agencies to do any of the following despite any other statute, regulation, order, policy, arrangement or agreement, including a collective agreement:
- identify staffing priorities and develop, modify and implement redeployment staffing plans, which include:
- redeployment of staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of a mental health and addictions agency
- change of work assignments, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to do bargaining unit work
- change of work schedules or shift assignments
- deferral or cancellation of vacations, absences or other leaves
- employment of extra staff (full-time, part-time or temporary) or contractors, who may perform bargaining unit work
- use of volunteers who may also perform bargaining unit work
- provide training and education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of the redeployment plan
- assess the skills and experience of staff to determine whether they can perform alternative roles in priority areas
- require and collect information from staff, contractors or volunteers regarding their availability to provide services, and about their likely or actual exposure to COVID-19 or other health conditions that may affect their ability to provide support and services.
The Order specifically states that “a mental health and addictions agency may implement redeployment plans without complying with provisions of a collective agreement, including lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions.” Notwithstanding that wording, we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice with respect to potential liability before implementing a redeployment plan.
The Order also states that any grievance process with respect to any matter referred to in the order is suspended for the duration of the Order.
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