Since the beginning of the pandemic, many employers have faced the difficult situation of business downturn which resulted in reduced hours, reduced salaries, or temporary layoffs.

For employees and employers alike, this initially raised many concerns; does this equate to termination or constructive dismissal? What obligations does the employer have towards the employees?

This changed on May 29, 2020.

The Ontario Government introduced new regulatory amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) that deems non-unionized employees who have had their hours reduced or eliminated because of COVID-19 to be on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave, with effect from March 1, 2020.

This is likely the Government’s attempt to protect both businesses and employees.  Employees are protected as they will remain employed and be eligible for federal emergency income support programs.  Businesses are relieved as it addresses the automatic termination trigger should a temporary layoff extend beyond ESA defined periods (click here for my previous post for explanation of defined periods of time for temporary layoffs).  Employees who were laid off since the beginning of the pandemic, around March, and who were not yet recalled to work, will now be deemed to be on unpaid leave of absence for the time being and employers’ termination and severance pay obligations will not be triggered automatically.

There are exceptions that apply where an employee may not be considered to be on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave.

These changes are not permanent and are slated to expire six (6) weeks after the declared state of emergency ends.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, if you are unsure what your rights are, it is imperative that you speak to an employment lawyer.

Disclaimer: Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to replace, legal advice. Contact Chris Chu Law to discuss a specific legal issue and please note that contacting Chris Chu Law, on its own, does not create a lawyer-client relationship.