On October 6, 2021, the Government of Canada announced two measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The government announced (1) a vaccination mandate for the federal public service and (2) a vaccination mandate for federally regulated travel by “air, rail, and marine transportation.”
In Rahman v Cannon Design Architecture Inc., the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld termination provisions that appeared to be in violation of the minimum standards prescribed by the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). This decision represents a positive development for Ontario employers.
On August 31, 2021, the Government of Ontario extended the period for the province’s paid infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL) entitlement from its original expiration date of September 25, 2021, to December 31, 2021.
The Government of Ontario announced that starting September 22, 2021, individuals will be required to show proof of fully vaccinated status in order to gain access to certain businesses. While the regulations have not yet been published, the government has released key details concerning the plans.
Canadian voters will be going to the polls for a federal general election on September 20, 2021. For employers, this means certain rules under the Canada Elections Act will apply on Election Day. Most importantly, employers must ensure that qualified electors (Canadian citizens 18 years of age and older) are guaranteed a period of time free from work to vote while polls are open.
In its recent ruling in Hawkes v Max Aicher (North America) Limited, 2021 ONSC 4290, the Ontario Divisional Court ruled on an application for judicial review that the entire payroll of an employer that terminates the employment of an Ontario-based employee should be used to determine whether the employer’s payroll is at least $2.5 million per year, and therefore whether severance pay may apply. This decision reversed a ruling from the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) that was based on previous case law finding that only an employer’s Ontario payroll was considered for the severance pay threshold.
In order to address the economic impact of COVID-19 on Ontario’s businesses, in June 2020 the Ontario government created a special leave called “infectious disease emergency leave” (IDEL) through Ontario Regulation 228/20 (O. Reg. 228/20).
On April 1, 2021, the government of Ontario activated its pandemic “emergency brake,” sending the entire province out of the five-tiered colour-coded framework and into the “shutdown” zone. The province implemented these shutdown zone measures on April 3, 2021, and they will remain effective “for at least four weeks.”
In light of the increased COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Canada, the Ontario government has made significant amendments to its vaccine distribution plan. The province is currently in the midst of Phase I of its vaccination distribution implementation plan, which prioritizes highest-risk populations, such as frontline healthcare workers, adults 80 years of age and older, indigenous communities, and individuals in congregate care settings for seniors. In preparation for its move to Phase II, Ontario has revised the eligibility criteria for vaccinations in Phase II.
Certain Canadian provinces have been especially hard hit by COVID-19 outbreaks. Most notably, Ontario and Quebec—two of Canada’s most populated provinces—have experienced the highest number of infection counts among the country’s provinces. While Ontario and Quebec have struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19, other provinces have had a different experience.
On Friday February 19, 2021, the Ontario Government announced that Toronto and two other regions will remain in shutdown for at least two more weeks. Among other things, this means that workers who are nonessential to in-person operations must continue to work from home. This represents the province pausing its recent efforts to reopen most of Ontario’s regions.
On February 8, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced the upcoming end to its state of emergency, as regions will begin reopening according to Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 restriction framework. The Government of Ontario also announced amendments to this framework.
With daily COVID-19 case counts approaching 4,000 in Ontario, the Ontario provincial government announced on January 12, 2021, a state of emergency and a return to stricter lockdown measures that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on January 14, 2021.
On January 4, 2021, the City of Toronto announced that employers and workplaces operating in Toronto’s public health unit will be subject to new reporting requirements regarding positive COVID-19 cases. In addition, Toronto Public Health announced that it will begin reporting data on workplace outbreaks effective January 7, 2021.
On December 21, 2020, the Ontario government announced province-wide shutdown measures, similar to those recently enacted by the governments of Alberta, Québec, and Manitoba. The government cited the “alarming rate” at which COVID-19 cases are increasing due to travel between public health regions that are subject to different levels of restriction, and the strain on the healthcare system as the driving forces behind the province-wide shutdown.
On December 17, 2020, the government of the Province of Ontario enacted Regulation 764/20, which will permit unions and employers in the hospitality, tourism, and trade show industries to negotiate for greater flexibility in the application of termination pay, severance, recall rights and other related matters under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).
The Ontario government recently enacted Ontario Regulation 228/20, which created an “infectious disease emergency leave” for employees who are off work due to COVID-19. As a result of a very recent regulation, Ontario Regulation 765/20, the period for this infectious disease emergency leave has been extended until July 3, 2021.
Canada is experiencing an increased number of daily COVID-19 infections in what appears to be a “second wave.” In response to higher positivity rates and increased hospitalisations, some provinces have passed strict public health orders to limit the spread of COVID-19. This article discusses the workplace impacts of measures implemented in Ontario, Québec, and British Columbia.
A Federal Court of Appeal decision, Bank of Montreal v. Li, is a cautionary tale for federally regulated employers about the limits of settlement agreements in resolving unjust dismissal complaints.
On June 12, 2020, Québec’s then minister of justice, Sonia LeBel, tabled in the National Assembly Bill 64, An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information.
On October 9, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced additional restrictions on and closures of public gatherings, specific businesses, and indoor food and drink service, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions are currently applicable within the “hotspots” of the “Ottawa, Peel, and Toronto public health unit regions.”
The Ontario government recently amended Ontario Regulation 364/20, Rules for Areas in Stage 3, to include mandatory COVID-19 symptom screening in almost all Ontario workplaces.
Employers operating in Ontario, Canada should be aware that Ontario’s minimum wage rate is set to increase on October 1, 2020. This increase affects not only the general minimum wage rate, but also the alternative minimum wage rates that apply in Ontario.
According to Statistics Canada, two in five employers in Canada have reduced hours or laid off one or more employees since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. One of the risks associated with those difficult decisions is a constructive dismissal claim that would trigger statutory notice and severance requirements under provincial employment standard legislation and under the common law. Ontario’s government has now taken a major step to prevent claims under its Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) resulting from COVID-19.
On April 1, 2020, Canada’s Minister of Finance announced the federal government’s plans for a comprehensive wage subsidy program that would cover up to 75 percent of an employee’s regular wages for up to 3 months. As predicted, the proposed Emergency Wage Subsidy Program has undergone significant changes in the last week in order to extend benefits to a wider class of employers.
On April 1, 2020, Canada’s Minister of Finance outlined the federal government’s plans for a comprehensive wage subsidy plan that, in total, would put as much as $71 Billion (CAD) back into the pockets of participating employers. The stated purpose of the plan is to maximize the ability of employers to maintain employment relationships with their employees during this difficult time.
On March 24, 2020, the British Columbia government made two changes to the BC Employment Standards Act to provide workers with unpaid, job-protected leave due to illness and injury.
On December 6, 2018, the government of Ontario unveiled Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2018. The bill is designed to reduce the regulatory and financial burden of operating a business in a number of areas, including employment and labour relations.