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


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.

In Spring 2020, the Ontario government introduced the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). CRB provided support to eligible workers who were not employed or self-employed for reasons related to COVID-19 or had their income reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19 or were not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). This benefit ended on October 23, 2021.

On April 29, 2021, the Ontario  Worker Income Benefit came into effect and the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) was amended to replace CRB. The Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit would provide $300 a week to eligible workers who are unable to work due to a local lockdown anytime between October 24, 2021, and May 7, 2022.


  • 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.

Ineligible for EI? These Benefits are in effect until May 7, 2022:

  • The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) provides $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) per week for up to a maximum of six weeks, for workers who:
    • are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19
    • are self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19
    • have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
  • The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) provides $500 ($450 after taxes withheld) for up to 44 weeks per household for workers:
    • unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19
    • because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19

If you’ve exhausted your Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and are no longer eligible for EI, you may be eligible for other benefits if you meet the eligibility criteria (see Who can apply). 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 benefits (see EI regular benefits: Apply). 

Emergency declaration terminated

The emergency that was declared under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act because of COVID-19 on April 7, 2021, is over. During the declared emergency, an employee may have had a right under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to take declared emergency leave, which is an unpaid, job-protected leave of absence. Learn more.

Three emergencies were declared in Ontario under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA). They were in effect from:

  • March 17, 2020, to July 24, 2020
  • January 12, 2021, to February 9, 2021
  • April 7, 2021, to June 2, 2021

The emergencies applied to the entire province of Ontario. There is no declared emergency in effect at this time.

During a declared emergency, an employee may have the right under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to take declared emergency leave, which is an unpaid, job-protected, leave of absence.

Employees are not currently entitled to take declared emergency leave. However, during any of the declared emergencies set out above, an employee may have had the right to declare emergency leave if they met the qualifying conditions – see below.

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 . 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  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) Paid infectious disease emergency leave was originally set to end September 25, 2021, and was later extended to December 31, 2021. It will now continue until July 31, 2022.

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 visit



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).

Individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing. 

At Work

Mandatory vaccination requirements are already in place as of October 30, 2021, for the public sector, employees working in the federally regulated air, rail, and marine transportation sectors, and travellers on these modes of transportation. The new regulations would ensure that employees in all other federally regulated industries, such as road transportation, telecommunications, and banking, are also vaccinated.

Also, effective October 30, travellers departing from Canadian airports, and travellers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to travel.

  • The federally regulated sector is comprised of workplaces from a broad range of industries, including interprovincial air, rail, road, and marine transportation, pipelines, banks, postal and courier services, among others.

  • All federal public servants in the Core Public Administration (CPA), including members and reservists of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) must be vaccinated against COVID-19. This requirement applies whether employees are teleworking, working remotely or working on-site.

Employers who do not comply with their obligations under the Canada Labour Code may be subject to compliance and enforcement measures, including administrative monetary penalties. 

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

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