Update: Stay-at-Home Order, Emergency Declaration and School Closures in Ontario

The government of Ontario has declared a third state of emergency as of April 8, 2021 in response to the rapid increase of COVID-19 in our community. Effective 12:01 a.m. on April 9, 2021, the government issued a province-wide Stay-at-Home Order which requires everyone to stay home except for essential purposes. This is in addition to other restrictions that are in place.

All employers are asked to make every effort to allow employees to work from home if possible.  Employees are allowed to leave their homes for work if the nature of the individual’s work requires attendance at the workplace, as determined by the employer. Thus, despite the Stay-at-Home Order, an employer is entitled to determine whether an employee must attend the workplace, subject to the other restrictions, such as the closure of in-person dining at restaurants for those in restaurant businesses.

As a result, many employers may be required to implement additional layoffs or measures reducing or eliminating hours of work. As a result of Regulation 228/20 relating to Infectious Disease Emergency Leave, if an employee’s hours have been temporarily reduced or eliminated by the employer for reasons related to COVID-19 (between March 1, 2020 and July 3, 2021), the employee is deemed to be on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) under the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000. This regulation provides employers with protection against allegations of constructive dismissal if a leave of absence is necessitated by virtue of this pandemic. Importantly, this protection is currently set to expire on July 3, 2021, although it has been extended on several occasions. It is important for employers to keep an eye on this date to avoid allegations of constructive dismissal resulting from leaves of absences that are imposed beyond July 3, 2021.

An employee is also entitled IDEL if it is necessary for the care for a child that must stay home due to the school closures. It is important to recall that this leave is job-protected statutory leave and therefore, an employer is not permitted to engage in any reprisals associated with such a leave and is entitled to reinstatement at the conclusion of the leave. Please contact us if you have any questions about an employee’s leave entitlements under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.