Employees May Stay Off Work Longer - More Changes to Ontario COVID-19 Related Leave of Absence

*Written by Hannah Goranson, Student-at-Law at Lee Workplace Law

On September 3, 2020, the Ontario government announced further amendments to Ontario's employment standards legislation that will prevent temporary layoffs from automatically being deemed to be dismissals. Effectively, employees who have been off work due to COVID-19 can stay off for longer.

As we outlined in our blog post, The Reopening Ontario Act: Employment Implications, the Ontario government had previously introduced an "infectious disease emergency leave of absence" in an attempt to reduce the number of permanent terminations arising from COVID-19. Employees who have had their hours or wages reduced or eliminated for reasons related to COVID-19 are deemed to be a leave of absence. That leave was supposed to end today (September 4, 2020), but is now extended. This recent government announcement makes clear that the infectious diseases emergency leave of absence is retroactive to January 25, 2020 and available until at least January 2, 2021.

The infectious disease emergency leave of absence is available to employees in the following circumstances:

  • The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment due to COVID-19;
  • The employee is quarantined or isolating due to a public health order relating to COVID-19;
  • The employee has been directed to not attend work by the employer due to concerns that the employee may expose others in the workplace to COVID-19;
  • The employee is caring for a designated individual due to a matter related to COVID-19. This includes parents who decide not to send their children back to school due to COVID-19;
  • The employee is directly impacted by COVID-19 related travel restrictions; and
  • The employee is impacted by an order in effect pursuant to the Reopening Ontario Act.

While on an infectious disease emergency leave of absence, employees' jobs are "protected". This means that employees are entitled to be re-instated to their regular position, with no material changes, at the end of the leave.

By introducing these amendments, the Ontario government states the aim is to save jobs, while also limiting employers' exposure to costly termination payouts. Further information can be found here.

If you have any questions or concerns about how these amendments may impact your employment matters, Lee Workplace Law would be happy to assist.