Ontario to protect workers who take leave from work

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The Ontario Government has passed two crucial pieces of legislation. The Province took unprecedented action to respond to COVID-19 by convening an emergency sitting of the legislature and passing two pieces of legislation which will protect the jobs of employees who self-isolate or quarantine, help keep store shelves stocked and give municipal councils the flexibility to continue operations while maintaining social distance.

The legislation passed with unanimous consent by only 26 MPPs. The number of members participating in this extraordinary session was intentionally kept small in order to practice social distancing and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. A first in Ontario history. Premier Doug Ford says this legislation will protect Ontario’s work force.

“I want to thank all parties for coming together to pass this important legislation so we can deliver immediate relief to Ontario workers and families. The health and safety of the people of Ontario is our number one priority and that’s why we are protecting the jobs of workers and making sure that essentials like groceries, household basics, and medicine can arrive on store shelves. We must work together as Team Ontario to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve.”

The Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 provides job-protected leave for employees who are in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives. These measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario. The legislation will also make it clear employees cannot be required to show sick notes.

Minister of Labour Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton says the legislation protects workers. “During this time of great uncertainty, the last thing employees should have to worry about is job security. People can’t be punished for following the advice of our leading medical health professionals.”

The Municipal Emergency Act, 2020 will ensure that for the near future, the delivery of goods to Ontario’s businesses and consumers isn’t impacted by municipal noise by-laws that may unintentionally be impeding such deliveries when they are most urgently needed. The legislation also gives municipalities the ability to fully conduct Council, local board and committee meetings electronically when faced with local and province-wide emergencies, empowering the government’s municipal partners to respond quickly when in-person meetings cannot be held.

“Mothers and fathers who need to care for children or dependants shouldn’t have to worry about losing their job,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. “The same goes for people who receive medical or public health advice and are required to take precautions as a result. They shouldn’t have to worry about losing their job. In this time of uncertainty, we need to support employees who must isolate or quarantine themselves, or who need to care for a loved one.”

The legislation will 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.
  • The employee is acting in accordance with public health information or direction.
  • The employer directs the employee not to work.
  • The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.

“These job protections could also contribute significantly to limiting the spread of COVID-19,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance. “We are giving everyone the tools they need to put their health and the health of others first, without fear
of losing their jobs.”

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