COVID-19: Ontario Extends Infectious Disease Emergency Leave

Puneet Tiwari

January 07 2021

The Ontario government has extended the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave till July 3, 2021. 

The Leave, in effect during the COVID-19 period, was to end on September 4, 2020. However, through an amendment (O. Reg. 492/20) to Regulation 228/20, the COVID-19 period (which began on March 1, 2020) was first extended to January 2, 2021, and has now been extended till July 3, 2021. 

This is an important measure that provides major relief to employees and employers. Employees unable to work due to COVID-19 related reasons can avail this unpaid and job-protected emergency leave. 

How does Regulation 492/20 affect temporary layoffs?

All non-unionized employees who have had their work hours or wages reduced due to the pandemic will not be considered temporarily laid off. They will be deemed to be on an Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. 

How does Regulation 492/20 affect constructive dismissals?

A temporary reduction or elimination of an employee’s work hours or wages due to reasons related to COVID-19 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. 

What will happen when the COVID-19 period ends on July 3, 2021?

From July 3, 2021, the rules set regarding constructive dismissals and temporary layoffs in Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) will resume. 

Temporary layoffs

All non-unionized employees who had their work hours or wages reduced due to the pandemic will no longer be considered on an Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. They will be regarded as temporarily laid off under the ESA

Constructive dismissals

If an employer changes major terms of employment without any contractual rights or the worker's consent, it will be considered to be a constructive dismissal

Major changes include changing the worker's position, salary, working hours or location. It will be regarded as a termination of the employment. The employee will be entitled to severance pay. 

Workers would be able to file a termination/employment severance complaint with the Ministry of Labour if their work hours or wages are temporarily reduced. 

Want to know your employer obligations surrounding COVID-19?

For advice on staff management during the pandemic, call an expert today: 1 (833) 247-3652.

Suggested Resources