When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in early 2020, no one was prepared for the effect it would have on the workforce. From designated essential services to forced closures to social distancing measures, this has truly been an unprecedented process for both employers and employees to adapt to. The possibility of a second wave is very real and, fortunately, we now have policies and legislation in place to better handle disruptions to the workforce. 

Infectious Disease Emergency Leave

The Infectious Disease Emergency Leave was created in March of 2020 when the Ontario Government activated a new law, known as the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies). This new job-protected leave allows employees with the COVID-19 virus, symptoms, or quarantine to take an indefinite leave of absence.

The Infectious Disease Emergency Leave act provides job protection for employees who are unable to work in the following situations:

  • 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.

The act also allows employees to take leave in order to care for family members and loved ones. More information on which individuals qualify can be found here.  

These measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020, and will remain in place until COVID-19 is defeated. Employees are not required to provide a medical note but employers may request other reasonable evidence. This could include a note from their child’s daycare or proof of a cancelled flight. 

Who Can Take Leave?

The Infectious Disease Emergency Leave act covers almost all Ontario employers and employees. This includes full-time and part-time employees, student workers, temporary help and casual workers. 

The act does not apply to employees in sectors that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes banks, airports, rail and federal crown corporations. 

Employer Obligations

Under the current Occupational Health and Safety Act, an employer must notify the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four days of any workers who are ill resulting from exposure at work. If applicable. the workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative and trade union must also be notified. 

These are confusing, unprecedented times for all of us as both employers and employees. True North HR Consulting is here to help with complete HR services customized to your needs. From small businesses to large organizations, our goal is to assist, advise and implement strategies and policies to make your business thrive and keep your people happy. With over 20  years of experience and expertise, we can help you generate new ideas and solve big problems. Reach out today and let’s get started … hr@truenorthhr.ca