COVID-19: Changes to the Ontario Employment Standards Act

Peninsula Team

June 03 2020

COVID-19: Changes to the Ontario Employment Standards Act 228:20 - Peninsula Canada

Employers in Ontario worried about extending temporary layoffs beyond the maximum limit of 13 weeks, can now breathe easy. 

On May 29, 2020, the government introduced Regulation 228/20 to the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA). This temporary amendment gets rid of temporary layoffs during the COVID-19 period. 

Regulation 228/20 replaces the previous Infectious Disease Emergency Leave Regulation (O. Reg. 66/20).

What is meant by the COVID-19 period?

The Regulation defines the COVID-19 period as starting from March 1, 2020. The COVID-19 period will end six weeks after Ontario’s current state of emergency is lifted. Regulation 228/20 to ESA will be in effect during the COVID-19 period. 

How does Regulation 228/20 affect temporary layoffs?

All non-unionized employees who have been laid off or had their work hours or wages reduced due to the pandemic, will now be considered to be on an Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. This leave is unpaid and job-protected.

Previously under ESA, businesses in Ontario had to terminate and pay severance to employees laid off for more than 13 weeks.  

How does Regulation 228/20 define infectious disease? 

Diseases caused by a novel coronavirus, including SARS, MERS and COVID-19 are considered to be infectious diseases. 

How does Regulation 228/20 affect constructive dismissals?

A temporary reduction or elimination of an employee’s work hours or wages due to the pandemic during the COVID-19 period will not be considered a constructive dismissal. This will be retroactive to March 1, 2020, and continue till the end of the COVID-19 period. 

This does not apply to cases where a worker resigned following a constructive dismissal before May 29, 2020. 

What if an employee has filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour over temporary reduction in work hours or wages?

Such a complaint would not be considered only if the changes took place during the COVID-19 period due to pandemic-related reasons.

This will not apply to cases of termination. Or cases where a layoff occurred due to shutting down of the business. A termination due to lapse of the maximum permissible length of a layoff before May 29, 2020, would also not count. 

Still have questions about the changes to the Ontario Employment Standards Act?

We can help you understand your obligations and rights under Regulation 228/20. To get advice on how to maintain your business during the pandemic, call our experts today: 1 (833) 247-3652.

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