Ontario Government Passes Promised Worker Protection Legislation in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

The Legislative Assembly of Ontario has today passed the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020.

As set out in our earlier post, the new legislation provides job-protected leave for employees for certain reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19;
  • isolation or quarantine in accordance with public health information or direction;
  • the need to provide care to a family-member for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure; 
  • inability to return to Ontario because of travel restrictions; and
  • where the employer has directed the employee not to work because of concerns around the spread of COVID-19. 

The full text of the new legislation can be accessed here.

Of particular note for employers is that the legislation provides for job-protected leave (meaning that an employee cannot lose their job for taking the leave) but does not require employers to pay employees during the leave. Employees who are unable to work due to COVID-19 may be eligible for Employment Insurance benefits and/or the other benefits recently announced by the Federal government. 

The legislation also provides that an employee cannot be required to provide a medical note in order to take the leave. In some cases, an employee may be required to provide proof that the leave was necessary, such as a note from their daycare provider.

The legislation’s measures apply retroactively to January 25, 2020 and will remain in place for the foreseeable future. 

We will continue to monitor developments related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace and will post further updates as information becomes available.