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FTR Now

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.

FTR Now

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.

FTR Now

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.

FTR Now

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.

Human Resources Legislative Update

On May 7, 2020, the Ontario government filed Ontario Regulation (O. Reg.) 200/20 (Order) made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act which amends O. Reg. 82/20 – Closure of Places of Non-Essential Businesses. The Order confirms the easing of restrictions that will allow retail and certain essential construction to resume activity effective at specified dates, as we described in our Human Resources Legislative Update of May 6, 2020 Ontario to Ease Restrictions for Retail and Essential Construction.

FTR Now

There have been two developments this week in relation to pandemic pay: a temporary amendment to Bill 124, the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019 (Bill 124) and the publication of a page entitled “COVID-19: Temporary pandemic pay” on the government website. However, key details, including how pandemic pay is to be operationalized, have yet to be announced. We therefore continue to advise employers to wait for the government to communicate this information before taking steps to implement any form of pandemic pay.

FTR Now

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.