Ontario Passes COVID-19 Response Legislation

In a full day sitting yesterday, the Ontario government (represented by only 24 MPPs) convened, introduced, debated and passed Bill 186, Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020.  The Bill amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to address when emergency leave is available to employees in case of infectious disease emergencies.

The amendments entitle an employee to a leave of absence without pay if the employee will not be performing the duties of his or her position because of various reasons related to a designated infectious disease.  Specifically, the amendments to the ESA provide job protection for employees unable to work for the following reasons:

    • The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
    • The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
    • The employee is in isolation or quarantine in accordance with public health information or direction.
    • The employer directs the employee not to work due to a concern that COVID-19 could be spread in the workplace.
    • The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.
    • The employee is prevented from returning to Ontario because of travel restrictions.

An employee will be able to take infectious disease emergency leave to care for the following individuals:

    • The employee’s spouse.
    • A parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
    • A child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
    • A child who is under legal guardianship of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
    • A brother, step-brother, sister or step-sister of the employee.
    • A grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
    • A brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law of the employee.
    • A son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
    • An uncle or aunt of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
    • A nephew or niece of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
    • The spouse of the employee’s grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.
    • A person who considers the employee to be like a family member, provided the prescribed conditions, if any, are met.
    • Any individual prescribed as a family member for the purposes of this section.

The act also makes it clear that an employee will not be required to provide a medical note if they need to take the leave. However, the employer may require the employee to provide other evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances, at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances. This could include such requests as a note from the daycare or for evidence that the airline cancelled a flight, but not a medical note.

These measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario. They will remain in place until COVID-19 is defeated.

The Ontario government, has expressly indicated that this legislation applies to most employees and employers in Ontario are covered by the provisions in this legislation, whether they work full-time, part-time, are students, temporary help agency assignment employees, or casual workers.  It does not apply to federally regulated employers and their employees (such as banks, airports, inter-provincial and international rail, and federal crown corporations).

To read the full text of the Legislation click here: https://www.ola.org/en/legislative-business/bills/parliament-42/session-1/bill-186