December 14, 2021

Ontario Government Extends Paid Sick Days and Infectious Disease Emergency Leave Protections

We report on two (2) important legislative changes in relation to employees laid off due to COVID-19 and the Ontario Government’s paid sick leave program.

Infectious Disease Emergency Leave

Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (“IDEL”) under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) has been extended to July 31, 2021.  IDEL is only applicable to non-unionized workplaces.

The effect of the IDEL amendments were to avoid termination and severance pay liability for employers in relation to employees laid off for periods longer than the temporary layoff provisions in the ESA. Those employees would be considered on a protected leave of absence and cannot claim constructive dismissal.  Similarly, employees with reduced hours would be considered on IDEL and unable to claim constructive dismissal.

IDEL was always intended to be a temporary measure – the expectation was that employees would return to work once the pandemic lifted.  That hasn’t happened and, instead, IDEL has been extended multiple times.  On December 7th, 2022, the Ontario government announced that IDEL would be extended to July 31, 2022. 

Unless extended again, anyone laid off because of COVID-19 would be subject to the regular ESA rules concerning temporary layoffs.  Layoffs longer than 13 weeks, or 35 weeks if specific conditions are met, would be considered a termination of employment and give rise to termination and severance pay under the ESA. 

You can read more about Infectious Disease Emergency Leave and its impact on employee rights in Rishi’s article on the topic, here.

The Worker Income Protection Benefit Program

Earlier this year, the Ontario government announced legislation that would permit employees three (3) paid days of leave for reasons related to COVID-19.  The program works in coordination with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, which reimburses employers for up to $200 each day per employee requiring leave.  The program was originally set to expire on December 31st, 2021, but has been extended to July 31, 2022.  We’ll continue to monitor HR law developments in relation to COVID-19 and provide updates. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with questions.