Federal Government’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Legislation Receives Royal Assent

As set out in our earlier post, the federal government last week announced its COVID-19 emergency response package. This afternoon, legislation supporting the response package received royal assent.

The legislation makes various changes to the law that will be of interest to employers:

Temporary Wage Subsidy

Today’s legislation passes into law the government’s promise of a temporary wage subsidy for Canadian small businesses. For more information, please see our previous post or the federal government’s online FAQ regarding the subsidy, which can be found here.

Today’s legislation enacts the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act, which authorizes the government to make income support payments for up to sixteen weeks to eligible workers, including the self-employed, who suffer a loss of income for reasons related to COVID-19. Individuals in receipt of EI benefits are not eligible.

Certain details not included in the legislation were announced by the Prime Minister this morning. According to that announcement:

  • the benefit amount will be $2000 per month;
  • the government intends to set up an online portal to receive applications as soon as possible; and
  • individuals should begin to receive benefit payments within 10 days of their application.

Amendments to the Canada Labour Code to provide for COVID-related leaves of absence

Today’s legislation amends the Canada Labour Code to provide for a new category of leave of absence called “Leave Related to COVID-19”. According to these legislative amendments, employees that are unable or unavailable for work for reasons related to COVID-19 are entitled to up to 16 weeks of leave from work. This leave of absence is job-protected (meaning that an employee cannot lose their job for taking the leave) but the employee does not need to be paid during the leave.

The legislation also amends the Canada Labour Code to temporarily remove the requirement that an employee provide a medical note in order to access compassionate care leave, critical illness leave, or medical leave. These amendments closely resemble the job-protection legislation recently passed by the Ontario government.

We are continuing to monitor developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic and will provide updates as additional details become available.

For more information on how to respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19, please see the Firm’s post on COVID-19 in the workplace.