On May 14th, 2020, the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario dismissed a request for reconsideration based on an asserted change of circumstances, a somewhat common happening given the lengthy period of time it now takes to process a freedom of information appeal.
As governments start lifting orders and directives made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (or similar legislation in other jurisdictions), it is understandable that employers and employees alike are anxious to return to their ‘pre-COVID-19 normal’. However, in order to ensure a successful return to work during the largest pandemic in modern history, it is crucial that employers turn their minds to the unique labour and employment issues created by COVID-19 and reopen with a solid return to work plan in place.
As provinces begin to roll out reopening plans for non-essential businesses, the logistical challenges of implementing social distancing in some workplaces mean that many employees will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. As companies consider which employees will be asked to return to the workplace, and when, the legal considerations and risks associated with work from home arrangements should be taken into account.
Ontario employers who are planning for an eventual return to work have been keeping a close eye on the province’s COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool (Tool). The Tool directs Ontarians to self-isolate in certain circumstances. This is important because it relates to employers’ Occupational Health and Safety Act duties and employers’ duty to provide statutorily-protected leaves under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
On May 14, 2020, the Ontario government announced that certain workplaces will be able to resume operations beginning May 19, 2020, signalling the start of Stage 1 of the second phase of the province’s reopening strategy, “A Framework for Reopening our Province” (Stage 1). The government also announced additional seasonal services and activities that may open May 16, 2020.
On May 8, 2020, the federal government published a new question and answer (Q&A) about the use of Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) plans to top-up the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).
In response to industry requests, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) announced on May 5, 2020 that the minimum 1% employer contribution rule applicable to defined contribution (DC) pension plans is temporarily suspended. In addition, the federal Department of Finance issued a comfort letter confirming that it will recommend an amendment to the Income Tax Regulations to extend the deadline for electing to purchase a leave of absence on a current-service basis. These measures are intended to temporarily assist the sponsors and administers of DC and defined benefit (DB) registered pension plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this FTR Now: Province allows businesses to reopen; Ontario announces workplace health and safety guidance; Ontario expands the list of essential workers eligible to receive free emergency child care; Further amendments to the Employment Insurance Act and New Canada Emergency Student Benefit; and more!
On April 27, 2020, the Ontario government announced its framework for reopening Ontario (Framework), which sets out the criteria the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) and health experts will use to advise the government on the timing of and direction for lifting emergency measures, as well as the principles for reopening businesses, services, and…
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).