COVID-19 EMERGENCY MEASURES – JOB PROTECTED LEAVE AND IMPORTANT UPDATES
The world is grinding to an unprecedented halt. The emergence of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has shaken up governments, markets and health systems across the globe.
In response to the rapid escalation of threat to public health, on Monday, March 16, 2020, the Federal and Ontario Government made major announcements outlining the emergency measures and funding being implemented at both the federal and provincial levels.
On early Tuesday morning, March 17, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced a state of emergency, ordering the closure of:
- facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
- organized public gatherings of fifty (50) people or more, including parades, religious services and other public events;
- public libraries;
- private schools as defined in the Education Act;
- licensed child care centres;
- bars and restaurants, except to provide takeout food and delivery services;
- live performance theatres and cinemas; and
- concert venues.
These closures are expected to remain in effect until March 31, 2020, with the possibility of an extension upon assessment by officials.
Furthermore, a major announcement was made by the Ontario Government earlier this week regarding proposed statutory protections for employees affected by Covid-19. These proposed statutory protections will be temporary, lasting the duration of the outbreak, and will attempt to address the concerns of working Ontarians who may otherwise feel the pressure of making a difficult choice between the preservation of public health and paying everyday expenses, especially for those living paycheque to paycheque.
The purpose of the proposed protections is to ensure that workers undertaking self-isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19 are able to take a job-protected unpaid leave of absence. These proposed protections would also extend to employees who must take leave to care for family members and, most notably, a medical note will not be required for employees seeking to take the leave under the proposed protections. If these protections are passed they are expected to be retroactive to January 25, 2020 and so employers should take notice of these approaching protections and adjust their workplace policies and procedures accordingly.
The Federal Government has also recently implemented changes that simplify access to Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits for those affected by the novel virus. To combat the economic consequence of the virus, EI has increased funding for Sickness Benefits which provides up to fifteen weeks of partial income replacement for those who are unable to work due to medical reasons, including quarantine. To further assist those affected, Employment and Social Development Canada has also implemented dedicated phone lines and a priority application process.
During this unprecedented and rapidly developing public health crisis it is important that all Ontarians be informed of the ongoing implementation of Government measures and avail themselves of up-to-date expert information to ensure the protection of vulnerable individuals and the public health system.
For general information related to COVID-19, the Ontario Government is regularly providing updated information on its website which can be found at: www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus.
Individuals seeking medical assistance should contact Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 or (locally) the HKPR District Health Unit (www.hkpr.on.ca). In the case of emergency call 911 and alert the dispatcher of the relevant travel history and symptoms.
March 17th, 2020
Posted in COVID-19