COVID-19 and Worker’s Rights!


Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, we want workers to be informed about their rights regarding work. We understand that the news of businesses and establishments closing their doors to slow the outbreak or that schools are on extended closures can spark fears that many will, or have unfortunately already lost their jobs.

The Ontario government has enacted the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies) 2020 which includes the following measures that will protect your job if:

  • You are under medical investigation, supervision or treatment
  • You are acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act
  • You are in isolation or quarantine
  • You are acting in accordance with public health information and direction
  • Your employer directed you NOT to work
  • You are providing care to a person for a reason relating to COVID-19; includes spouse, children/stepchildren, siblings, extended family
  • The employee is prevented from returning to Ontario because of travel restrictions

THESE MEASURES ARE RETROACTIVE FROM JANUARY 25, 2020.

The act also makes it clear that an employee will not be required to provide a medical note if they need to take leave. However, the employer may require the employee to provide other evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances.

For now, here are some of the key changes to EI and The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). The CRB gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 and are not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. You can find out more here about CRB:

AS OF SEPTEMBER 2021 CHANGES & EXTENSIONS HAVE BEEN MADE UNTIL DECEMBER 2021

  • On September 26, 2021, the $500 minimum weekly income for EI will be reduced to $300 per week (similar to CRB). New claimants between September 26, 2021 and November 20, 2021 will only receive a base rate of $1,200 per month instead of $2,000.
  • From September 26, 2021 until at least September 25, 2022, the duration of Regular EI will no longer be 50 weeks in all regions. The number of weeks you receive benefits will again be based on your accumulated work hours and the regional unemployment rate.
  • To be eligible for Regular EI and Special EI benefits such as parental leave, workers currently need only 120 hours of work. But on September 26, workers will need 420 work hours to qualify.
  • CRB ends on October 23, 2021-
    • September 12 to 25, 2021 (Period 26) If you are eligible, this period is open for application. The last day you can apply is November 24, 2021 (11:59 pm ET)
    • September 26 to October 9, 2021 (Period 27) If you are eligible, this period is open for application. The last day you can apply is December 8, 2021
    • The last period for the CRB is period 28 (October 10 to 23, 2021) which will be open for application until December 22, 2021.

If you’ve exhausted your Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and are no longer eligible for EI, you may be eligible for the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) if you meet the eligibility criteria (see Who can apply: CRB). However, if you worked while on your EI claim, you may be able to establish a new EI claim. To determine your EI eligibility, you should make an EI claim before applying for the CRB (see EI regular benefits: Apply).

On April 29, 2021, the Ontario Government amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid infectious disease emergency leave because of certain reasons related to covid 19. This entitlement is in addition to employees’ rights to unpaid infectious disease emergency leave.

Paid infectious disease emergency leave is available for certain reasons related to, including:

  • Going for a test
  • Staying home awaiting the results of a covid 19 test
  • Being sick with
  • Getting individual medical treatment for mental health reasons related to
  • Going to get vaccinated
  • Experiencing a side effect from a  vaccination
  • Having been advised to self-isolate due to  by an employer, medical practitioner or other specified authority
  • Providing care or support to certain relatives for related reasons, such as when they are: 
    • sick with  or have symptoms of 
    • self-isolating due to  on the advice of a medical practitioner or other specified authority

Employers are generally required to pay employees the wages they would have earned had they not taken the leave, up to $200 a day for up to three days.

For more information visit the infectious disease emergency leave chapter in Your Guide to the ESA or call the Ontario covid 19 Worker Income Protection Benefit Information Centre 1-888-999-2248 (TTY: 1-866-567-8893)

The measures under this act should remain in effect until COVID-19 is defeated.

You MAY be eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) sick benefits if you have contracted the virus or are in quarantine. Changes have been made surrounding COVID-19 such as the waiting period has been waived and COVID-19 cases are priority. For more information, please visithttps://www.ontario.ca/document/your-guide-employment-standards-act-0/covid-19-temporary-changes-esa-rules

canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus

Vaccines

AS OF SEPTEMBER 2021

All Ontarians who registered their vaccines are encouraged to download their vaccine receipt as proof of their vaccine status until an enhanced vaccine certificate with a QR code is available.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health has issued a directive mandating hospitals and home and community care service providers to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers, and for ambulance services to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for paramedics starting September 7, 2021, and will require proof of one of three things:

  • Full vaccination against COVID-19;
  • A medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19; or
  • Completion of a COVID-19 vaccination educational session.

Vaccination policies will also be implemented in other higher-risk settings such as:

  • Post-secondary institutions;
  • Licensed retirement homes;
  • Women’s shelters; and
  • Congregate group homes and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, children’s treatment centres and other services for children with special needs, and licensed children’s residential settings.

As of September 22, 2021, Ontarians will need to be fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) and provide their proof of vaccination along with photo ID to access certain public settings and facilities. Enhanced vaccine certificates with official QR codes are available for download from the COVID-19 vaccination portal. This approach focuses on higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn and includes:

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery and takeout);
  • Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment);
  • Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres;
  • Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sport;
  • Sporting events;
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments;
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas;
  • Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs;
  • Racing venues (e.g., horse racing).
    These mandatory requirements would not apply to outdoor settings, including patios. In addition, these requirements will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores, medical supplies and the like. Aligned with public health measures currently in place, indoor masking policies will continue to remain in place.

Individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing. These settings will be required to track and report on the implementation of their policies to the provincial government. 

To support the return to school plan, the Ministry of Education intends to introduce a vaccination disclosure policy for all publicly-funded school board employees, and staff in private schools as well as for all staff in licensed child care settings for the 2021-22 school year, with rapid antigen testing requirements for staff who are not immunized against COVID-19. 

Discrimination and COVID-19: discrimination including harassment against any persons or communities related to COVID-19 is prohibited under the Ontario Human Rights Code. The OHRC’s policy position is that the Code ground of disability is engaged in relation to COVID-19 as it covers medical conditions or perceived medical conditions that carry significant social stigma. Employers have a duty to accommodate employees in relation to COVID-19 up to undue hardship.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Phone: 705-470-2173 / Toll free: 1-866-470-2173

Email: helpline@sudburyworkerscentre.ca / info@sudburyworkerscentre.ca / outreach@sudburyworkerscentre.ca