The last week has seen numerous announcements and regulatory changes as the Ontario government continues to ease restrictions and permit more businesses to resume their operations. Effective June 19, 2020, Durham, Haldimand-Norfolk, Halton, Hamilton, Lambton, Niagara and York have been moved to Stage 2.
In a series of announcements and regulatory changes from last week, the Ontario government provided guidance on the reopening of postsecondary education in the province. The developments reviewed in this FTR Now apply to universities, colleges of applied arts and technology, private career colleges and other postsecondary institutions.
On April 25, 2019, the Ontario government announced that it would be providing temporary pandemic pay to frontline workers fighting COVID-19. At the time, we observed that there were some key unknown elements about pandemic pay that required further direction from the government.
On Friday, May 29, 2020, the Ontario government published a new regulation under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) that is intended to provide temporary relief from the ESA’s termination and severance provisions for employers whose operations have been shut down or otherwise curtailed by COVID-19 – O. Reg. 228/20, Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL Regulation).
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.
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 13, 2020, the Ontario government issued an order (O. Reg. 210/20, Management of Long-Term Care Homes in Outbreak) (Order) made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act which is intended to provide long-term care homes with additional assistance in managing COVID-19 outbreaks.
On May 8, 2020, the Ontario government filed Ontario Regulation (O. Reg.) 205/20 – Education Sector (Order) made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act which applies to all school boards within the meaning of the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014 in Ontario.
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.