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 their duty to provide statutorily-protected leaves under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
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.
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).
Bill 189, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act, 2020 received Royal Assent on April 14, 2020 (Bill 189). Among other things, Bill 189 amends the Education Act (Act) to extend the time limit to expel a student where such an extension is recommended to, and granted by, the Director of Education.
On April 15, 2020, the Ontario government issued an Order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) that applies to service agencies funded by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and which provide (1) residential or emergency residential services under the Violence Against Women Support Services program or the Anti-Human Trafficking Community Supports program, or (2) provincial crisis line services under the Violence Against Women Support Services program. The Order applies for the duration of the declared emergency under the EMCPA.
On April 14, 2020, the Ontario government issued an Emergency Order (Order) pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) which relates specifically to staffing issues in Ontario’s long-term care sector. The Order, O. Reg. 146/20, Limiting Work to a Single Long-Term Care Home, creates immediate obligations for both long-term care employers and employees working in long-term care homes. Once the requirements of the Order are met, the Order will effectively impose a “single-employer” rule for employees in this sector, preventing them from working for more than one Health Service Provider or retirement home until the Order is lifted.
On April 11, 2020, Bill C-14, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, No. 2, (Bill C-14), received Royal Assent after another emergency session of Parliament. Bill C-14 enacts the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). It includes new details about which employers are eligible, and the calculation of gross revenue and the subsidy. On the same date, the federal government also updated its backgrounder describing the CEWS, reflecting the final form of the legislation.
On April 3, 2020, the Ontario government issued an order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) that applies to service agencies which provide services and supports to adults with developmental disabilities. Under the terms of the order, service agencies shall and are authorized to take, with respect to staffing and work deployment, any reasonably necessary measures to respond to, prevent and alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19.
On April 3, 2020, the Ontario government announced that more businesses must close because they are no longer considered essential in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. These businesses must close effective tomorrow, Saturday April 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.