On March 19, 2020, at an emergency sitting of the Legislature, the Ontario Government passed legislation to provide job-protected Infectious Disease Emergency Leave for employees who are unable to work for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill 186, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020, entitles employees to take an unpaid leave of absence if they are unable to work for any of the following reasons:
- The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
- The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
- The employee is in isolation or quarantine in accordance with public health information or direction.
- The employer directs the employee not to work due to a concern that COVID-19 could be spread in the workplace.
- The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.
- The employee is prevented from returning to Ontario because of travel restrictions.
Employees are also be able to take Infectious Disease Emergency Leave to provide care for a wide array of family members.
Employees wishing to take Infectious Disease Emergency Leave will not be required to provide a medical note to employers. However, employers can require that employees provide evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances (at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances) to substantiate their absence. The official press release for Bill 186 suggests that employers can request things such as a note from a daycare or evidence of a cancelled flight.
The job protection under Bill 186 is retroactive to January 25, 2020, which is the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario. The Ontario Government indicates that these measures will remain in place “until COVID-19 is defeated”.