COVID-19 and the Workplace

COVID-19 and the Workplace

It is important to our team that we keep our clients and readers updated with the most relevant information, especially in a novel situation like we are experiencing now with the COVID-19 outbreak. We will update this resource as often as we can so that you can stay up to date.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, this unprecedented set of circumstances has raised a lot of difficult questions. If you are unsure of your rights and obligations, we are here to help. Please keep checking this blog and follow our social media feeds to keep up to date.

We know this is a stressful time. Please take care of yourselves and let us take care of you.

Contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your rights and obligations in this challenging time.

November 26, 2020: Ontario Workplace Education and Enforcement Campaign

Over the coming days, the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development will be performing community safety campaigns to educate businesses and workers on public health measures. These campaigns are being developed in consultation with local public health units, police and by-law departments, and support Ontario’s COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.

Read more here.

November 23, 2020: CRA warns 213,000 Canadians that they might have to pay back CERB overpayments

The Canada Revenue Agency says it’s warning about 213,000 Canadians who may have been paid twice through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program that they could be called upon to repay the money.

But repayment isn’t required right away, says the agency. The CRA has suspended collection of debts for the duration of the pandemic emergency.

Read more here.

November 19, 2020: Ontario Launches Workplace Education and Enforcement Campaigns

The Ontario government is launching a series of education and enforcement campaigns to ensure businesses across the province are taking the necessary steps to keep employees, consumers and the public safe. These campaigns will support the current efforts of police, municipal by-law officers, and public health inspectors to educate businesses and enforce the COVID-19 health and safety requirements. Officers will be asking employers to produce their workplace safety plans.

Read more here.

November 13, 2020: CRA extends work-from-home reimbursement to cover office equipment, not just computers

At the Canadian Tax Foundation’s annual conference held in late October, the Canada Revenue Agency provided a bit of good news when responding to a couple of questions posed to them during their annual roundtable session. The first dealt with the reimbursement of computer and office equipment by employers and the second concerned refinancing a prescribed-rate loan. Let’s take a look at what the CRA said about each issue.
Read more here.

November 4, 2020: Ontario unveils new system for COVID-19 shutdowns.

Ontario has announced major changes to how it will impose COVID-19 shutdowns, introducing a new tiered system for when to impose lockdowns and closures.

Under the new framework released on Tuesday, which has not been implemented yet, each of Ontario’s 34 public health units will be placed in one of five categories based off their current COVID-19 trends.

Read more here.

October 22, 2020: Bill 218, Supporting Ontario's Recovery and Municipal Elections Act, 2020

The Honourable Doug Downey has introduced legislation that will protect people from liability resulting from individuals being or potentially being infected with or exposed to COVID-19. Bill 218 prohibits any proceeding from being brought against a person resulting from an individual being or potentially being infected with or exposed to COVID-19 where, at the relevant time, the person acted or made a good faith effort to act in accordance with public health guidance and federal, provincial or municipal laws related to COVID-19. If this Bill is passed, it will be retroactive to March 17, 2020.

Read more here.

October 21, 2020: Critics say Ford's new long-term care legislation makes it harder to sue the facilities

Premier Doug Ford’s new legislation that aims to provide liability protection for workers and organizations that follow COVID-19 health guidelines, is facing backlash.

On Tuesday, the Ontario government introduced the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, 2020, that if passed, will provide liability protection for workers, volunteers and organizations that “make an honest effort to follow public health guidelines and laws relating to exposure to COVID-19.”

At the same time, the government will also allow people to take legal action against those who willfully, or with gross negligence, endanger others.

The legislation is facing backlash from the NDP and Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) for protecting long-term care homes, making it “significantly easier” for a home to defend itself, because now gross negligence must be proven, which is harder to convict.

Read more here.

October 9, 2020: Government announces new, targeted support to help businesses through pandemic

On October 9, 2020, the Federal government announced a number of changes to existing support programs designed to help businesses navigate the economic challenges of COVID-19. Notably, the government announced its intention to extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) until June, 2021 and maintain the current subsidy rate of up to a maximum of 65 percent of eligible wages until December 19, 2020, rather than the gradual phase out of the program that had been initially planned. In addition, the government announced an expansion of the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), which would enable businesses and not-for-profits eligible for CEBA loans to access an interest-free loan of up to an additional $20,000, in addition to the original CEBA loan of $40,000.

The government also announced its intention to establish a new program, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy, which would provide rent and mortgage support of up to 65% of eligible expenses to businesses, charities and non-profits that have suffered a revenue drop. There will also be an additional 25% top up available for organizations who were required to temporarily shut down as a result of a mandatory public health order.

Read more here.

October 6, 2020: Ontario Implements Mandatory Screening Requirements in Workplaces

As of September 26, 2020, all businesses and organizations in Ontario are required to screen workers and essential visitors for COVID-19 before allowing them entry into their premises. The screening requirements apply to employees, students, contractors, volunteers, delivery and maintenance personnel and contract workers, but does not include patrons. The Ontario Ministry of Health has released a COVID-19 Screening Tool to help businesses fulfill this requirement, which consists of three questions designed to assess an individual’s risk to COVID-19 exposure.

Read more here.

September 23, 2020: Federal wage subsidy extended into summer 2021: throne speech

In the throne speech, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the government is extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) into next summer. This is welcome news for many businesses that are struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The CEWS helped people keep their jobs, or be rehired if they had been laid off,” said Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, who read the speech on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“But there is still more to be done. Unemployment is in the double digits, and underemployment is high. One way the government will create these jobs is by extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy right through to next summer.”

The throne speech did not mention if the program’s rules would change, but Payette said the government will work with businesses and labour to ensure the program “meets the needs of the health and economic situation as it evolves.”

The CEWS was supposed to wind down gradually in late fall, even though many business and industry associations have been urging the government to extend the support, particularly for businesses at greatest risk of closing permanently.

We note that in our experience, the CEWS has helped many businesses to keep employees on payroll and either fully or partially employed, rather than temporarily lay them off or terminate their employment.

Read more here.

September 14, 2020: Further Amendments to the Employment Standards Act - Timer Still Paused on Layoffs

On September 3, 2020, the Ontario government announced that it was extending the protections it introduced in June through Ontario Regulation 228/20 until January 2, 2021. This is great news for businesses, many of whom were scrambling to recall their employees to work or make other arrangements before September 4, 2020, when the original “COVID-19 Period” was set to expire.

Read more here.

September 3, 2020: Ontario Extends Support for Employers and Employees Impacted by COVID-19

The Ontario government announced further protection for jobs and businesses. The temporary layoff rules under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 will be inapplicable until January 2, 2021. Prior to this announcement, they were set to resume on September 4, 2020.

This means that for the purpose of the statute, temporary layoffs will be prevented from automatically becoming terminations. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further updates.

Read more here.

August 31, 2020: Government announces greater flexibility and extension of Canada Emergency Business Account

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy but they continue to face economic challenges and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, is today announcing that the application deadline for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) is extended from August 31 to October 31, 2020.

Read more here.


August 25, 2020: Return-to-work issues

In pre-COVID days, employees did not have the option of simply choosing not to attend at work on a given day, and that is no different now when they are being directed to return to the workplace after a period of layoff/leave or working from home. They can’t simply decide that they “prefer” to defer their return.

So what should employers do when an employee indicates their reluctance or refusal to come back to work?

Read more here.


August 21, 2020: CERB extension and new benefits announced for when CERB ends

The Government of Canada has announced a four week extension of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and has also expanded on plans to help those currently receiving the CERB when that plan ends, including expansion of eligibility for Employment Insurance as well as three new benefit programs.

Read more here.

August 14, 2020: What’s New with the CEWS?

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“CEWS”) has been extended until December 19, 2020. Over the next few months, the subsidy will also be available to a broader group of employers and benefits will be provided on a sliding scale based on the degree of lost revenue. The subsidy will decrease over time as the Government attempts to “wean” businesses off of the program.

The Department of Finance has released a backgrounder, detailing the various new changes made to the CEWS. Due to the complexity of these changes, we have summarized some of the key takeaways from the updates.

Read more here.

August 10, 2020: BC employers must apply to extend COVID-19 layoffs beyond August 30th

On June 25th, the BC government announced that it would extend the time period for temporary layoffs connected to COVID-19 to a maximum of 24 weeks in a 28 week period, ending on or before August 30, 2020.

As the pandemic is still affecting the full functioning of business, many employers in BC might need more time before they are ready to recall their employees. If an employer expects that a temporary layoff will surpass 24 weeks or August 30, they need to apply to the Employment Standards Branch (“ESB”) to further extend the layoff. Failure to submit an application will result in the permanency of the temporary layoff and the termination of inactive employees.

Read more here.

July 31, 2020: Trudeau announces plans for end of CERB, transition to EI

The federal government plans to transition recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to the Employment Insurance (EI) program as the $80-billion coronavirus aid program wraps up this fall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

Ottawa will also create a “transitional, parallel benefit” that is similar to EI for people who don’t qualify for the unemployment benefit, such as contract and gig workers.

Read more here.

July 30, 2020: In Ontario, Infectious Disease Emergency Leave Ends on September 4, 2020

Remember when the Ontario government made a new regulation deeming temporarily laid off employees to be on a job-protected Infectious Disease Emergency Leave? This regulation temporarily amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA).

According to the regulation, the temporary rules would expire six weeks after the lifting of the declaration of emergency.  Since the Ontario government revoked its declaration of emergency order on July 24th, these temporary rules will expire on September 4th. 

Read more here.

July 29, 2020: Provincial status on COVID-19 (Ontario)

As most of Ontario has moved into stage 3 of reopening, Ontario has transitioned into the recovery phase with the new Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act. While the provincial declaration of emergency has ended, the new act will provide the province with the necessary flexibility to address the ongoing risks and effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some emergency orders that were previously in place under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, will continue under the new act. This includes orders related to labour redeployment in long-term care and retirement homes, stages of reopening, compliance with public health advice and gatherings.

Read more here.

July 22, 2020: Ministry reminder about COVID-19 exposure on the job

If a worker has contracted COVID-19 from an exposure at work or a related claim has been filed with the WSIB, employers are required to notify the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Notice should be addressed to “Attention: Director” and emailed to, or mailed or faxed to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development regional office closest to the workplace. Notice should also be given to the workplace joint health and safety committee, health and safety representative and trade union, if applicable.

July 22, 2020: Virtual Home Office Ergonomic Assessments

OHCOW provides many tools and resources around Ergonomics & Workstation set-up, including when working from home. Plus, we are now also offering a Virtual Home Office Ergonomic Assessment service. It is available to anyone in Ontario who is currently working from home, and is concerned about their workstation set-up, or suffering from a Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD) (or recent chronic pain).

Learn more here.

July 22, 2020: Temporary Foreign Agricultural Workers and COVID 19 Safety Guidance & Resources

COVID19 introduces serious and complex health and safety challenges for the arrival, isolation and work of temporary foreign workers in Ontario agriculture, particularly re: healthcare capacity, public and occupational health, and workplace communication and coordination for this disconnected population, made more vulnerable by high-density housing.

Learn more here.

July 22, 2020: OHS Certificate of Recognition

The Certificate of Recognition (COR™) is a national accreditation standard that verifies full implementation of an employer’s Occupational Health and Safety Management System. COR™ is often used as a condition of contract by the public and private sector across Canada.

Recently, COR™ was enhanced to COR™ 2020 in order to help interested workplaces qualify for financial rewards and recognition from the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Learn more here.

July 22, 2020: WSIB Health and Safety Excellence program: Pandemic readiness

The program connects businesses of all sizes with WSIB-approved providers to help you develop a program that is suitable for your business.

Learn more here.

July 22, 2020: Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers Program

Supporting Ontario’s Safe Employers is a voluntary Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development program run by the Chief Prevention Officer (CPO). It promotes health and safety in the workplace and helps reduce injuries and illness.

Learn more here.

July 17, 2020: Liberals revise COVID-19 wage subsidy, ease eligibility in bid to boost takeup

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the Liberals are easing eligibility rules for the government’s emergency wage subsidy and changing the amounts businesses can receive.

The government had been under pressure to make the subsidy more accessible, specifically by loosening the requirement of a 30 per cent drop in revenues, so more companies under that cut-off can qualify.

Learn more here.

July 13, 2020: Nearly all businesses can reopen in Ontario on Friday, Toronto area excluded

Nearly all businesses, including gyms, movie theatres and indoor dining, can reopen on Friday in parts of Ontario, except for the Toronto-area and a few other regions, as the province enters Stage 3 through a regional approach.

Learn more here.


July 13, 2020: Federal wage subsidy for businesses to be extended to December

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today the federal government is extending the emergency wage subsidy program to December of this year.

The program covers 75 per cent of wages, up to a weekly maximum of $847, for workers at eligible companies and non-profits affected by the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more here.

July 8, 2020: CERB Is Coming To An End As Feds Focus On Wage Subsidy

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced Wednesday that the government is looking to move to an economic recovery phase and will shift its focus from individuals to helping businesses. One way of doing that, he said, is by removing “disincentives” that may dissuade people from returning to work.

Learn more here.

July 7, 2020: Ford government bill would allow extension of emergency measures for up to a year

The proposed law would allow the government to extend or amend some emergency orders a month at a time, with the law expiring a year after it’s passed.

Under current legislation, the province can only issue emergency orders while the state of emergency is in place.

Ontario’s state of emergency is set to expire July 15 and Premier Doug Ford has said he hoped not to extend it again.

Learn more here.

July 3, 2020: Ontario Launches Online Training to Promote Safe Workplaces

As the province safely and gradually reopens, the Ontario government is investing $3 million to provide free online health and safety training for the first time. These virtual courses will make it easier for job seekers and workers to get essential qualifications, while practising physical distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Learn more here.

June 30, 2020: Ontario Courts Gradually Resuming In-Person Proceedings

Ontario courts will begin resuming in-person proceedings across the province on Monday, July 6, 2020. The gradual reopening of courtrooms will include strict health and safety protocols to protect staff and everyone required to attend a courthouse from COVID-19.

Learn more here.

June 25, 2020: B.C. extends layoff provisions to Aug. 30

The B.C. government says it is extending temporary layoff provisions until the end of August, giving employers and workers more flexibility to support economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more here.

June 25, 2020: will “severance pay” qualify as “eligible remuneration” for purposes of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (the “CEWS”)?

It is a question we have received consistently from employers.

Learn more here.

June 24, 2020: Labour minister stands ground as B.C. business leaders demand temporary layoff extension

Provincial Minister of Labour Harry Bains says there will be no ministerial order – at least “not right now” – to extend the temporary layoff time limits beyond 16 weeks as there are already provisions under the Employment Standards for employers and workers to apply for extensions beyond that time.

Read more here.

June 23, 2020: Time limit for temporary layoffs extended.

The federal government has extended the time period for temporary layoffs by up to six months, giving employers more time to recall employees who were laid off due to COVID-19.

Read more here.

June 22, 2020: Plan to reduce statutory holidays has been scrapped.

Premier Doug Ford’s government has shot down a policy proposal that would have cut down the number of statutory holidays available to retail employees from nine to three.

Read more here.

June 19, 2020: Reduced Statutory Holidays for Frontline Retail Workers?

Sources say that the Ontario government is planning to reduce statutory holidays for front line retail workers.

Read more here.

June 19, 2020: Beware of claims for constructive dismissal after temporary layoffs

Employment standards legislation establishes how temporary layoffs are to be implemented, but it does not give employers the right to do so. That right must be founded in contract. A simple clause can achieve this goal, but it must be properly implemented.

Read more here.

June 18, 2020: Ontario plans to extend State of Emergency until mid July

The Ontario government tabled a motion Wednesday night to extend Ontario’s state of emergency until the middle of July.

Read more here.

June 16, 2020: Ontario Releases Guide on How to Develop a Workplace Safety Plan

The Ontario government is providing employers with a new general workplace guide, which will help them develop a safety plan to better protect workers, customers and clients. The new downloadable toolkit offers tips on how to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as more people get back on the job during Stage 2 of the reopening of the province.

Read more here.

June 16, 2020: CERB program extended until start of September

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government’s signature benefit for people whose jobs have vanished amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended by eight weeks.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit pays up to $500 a week and was slated to last 16 weeks starting in April, meaning that people who signed up for it immediately would soon run out.

Read more here.

June 15, 2020: Trudeau promises to extend the emergency relief benefit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that the federal government will extend the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), with details to follow in the days ahead.

The CERB is due to run out soon for people who have been on the benefit since it was first launched in April, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more here.

June 15, 2020: Toronto still excluded from Stage 2, most regions allowed

Ontario is allowing almost all regions to move forward to the next stage of the province’s restart phase on Friday, which allows restaurants, hair salons and malls to reopen, but Toronto is still excluded from the list.

Read more here.

June 15, 2020: Can an employee sue for catching the virus at work?

HRD spoke to Stuart to debunk some common misconceptions around COVID-19 and employer obligations.

Read more here.

June 10, 2020: Threatening jail time for CERB fraud could scare off legitimate claims, experts say

New legislation threatening fines and jail time for Canadians who fraudulently claim the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) could scare off legitimate claims, say legal and labour experts – and it’s unlikely that anyone will actually end up in prison.

Read more here.

June 8, 2020: Ontario Permits More Businesses and Services to Reopen in the Coming Days

The Ontario government announced that it is getting more people back to work and more recreational activities open by moving forward with a regional approach to Stage 2 of reopening the province.

Read more here.

June 8, 2020: Ontario doubling limit on gatherings, more businesses to reopen in next phase of COVID-19 recovery plan

Regional reopening will see most areas move into next phase on Friday. Ontarians will soon be allowed to gather in groups up to 10 and many more businesses and services will be allowed to begin operating again as part of the next phase of the province’s regional reopening, set to begin in some areas later this week.

Read more here.

June 6, 2020: Ontario Extends Emergency Orders to Support Its Reopening Efforts

Province Extends the Suspension of Limitation Periods and Time Periods for Legal Proceedings until September

Read more here.

June 1, 2020: What are your rights as you return to work in the middle of a pandemic?

It’s important that you know your legal rights as an employee in this new world of work. Stuart answered some questions for the Toronto Star.

Read more here.

June 1, 2020: Good news for Employers - Ontario Introduces Regulation 228/20

On Friday afternoon, the Ontario government introduced a new Regulation that has the potential to dramatically affect the legal landscape with respect to non-unionized workers that have had their hours reduced or been temporarily laid off.

Read more here.

May 29, 2020: The Next Phase - Getting Back to Business FAQ

After months of discussing layoffs and pay cuts, the discussion is shifting to getting back to business, if not quite back to normal. There is more time to plan this phase, and we are hopeful that organizations will make more informed decisions as they bring their workers back. We have been inundated with questions about how to recall employees, obligations regarding safety in the workplace, whether workers have to return to work if they prefer to remain offwork or to work remotely, and many other issues.

We put together a document of FAQs about getting back to work.

Download Now

May 28, 2020: Ministry of Labour inspections

As of today, Ministry inspectors have completed inspections and investigations for 8,491 workplaces and issued 4,336 orders, which includes 20 stop work orders, related to COVID-19.

May 25, 2020: Feds to push for 10 days of paid sick leave for workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that as Canada enters the “recovery phase” of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government will be moving forward on talks with the provinces and territories on ensuring that every worker in Canada who needs it can access 10 days of paid sick leave a year.

Read more here.

May 20, 2020: Bill 191, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Presumption Respecting COVID-19), 2020

The Bill amends the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997. New section 15.0.1 of the Act applies with respect to workers who work for a business that has been listed as an essential business in an order made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. If a worker for an essential business receives a positive test for the disease known as COVID-19, the disease is presumed to be an occupational disease that occurs due to the nature of the worker’s work, unless the contrary is shown. The presumption applies to a positive test received on or after January 25, 2020. Transitional matters are provided for.

Read more here.

May 15, 2020: Wage subsidy program to be extended past June

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government’s wage subsidy program for employers will be extended past June.

The move, he said, would help “kickstart” Canada’s economic re-opening and boost jobs.

Read more here.

May 14, 2020: Edmonton businesses get back to work as Stage 1 of Alberta's relaunch kicks off

Edmonton retail stores, restaurants and salons are allowed to open up again, in the first phase of the province’s relaunch plan. Daycares, art galleries, museums, summer camps and farmers market can also reopen.

Read more here.

May 14, 2020: Ontario's reopening plan - phase 1

Starting May 19, retail stores outside of shopping malls with street entrances can begin reopening with physical distancing measures. Outdoor recreational activities and many individual sport competitions will also get the green light starting Tuesday.

Read more about phase one of Ontario’s opening plan here.

May 12, 2020: Federal workers ordered to ignore cheating in CERB and EI claims

A memo told employees not to halt payment or trigger investigations when they see signs of abuse, noting the department’s integrity branch has been suspended.

Read more here.

May 11, 2020: More Restrictions Being Lifted

Every Province is moving ahead at a different pace, with Quebec perplexingly being the first to reopen elementary schools and daycares despite accounting for more than half of the country’s coronavirus cases, but everyone is focused on getting the economy up and running again.

For more details on the plans, click here.

May 11, 2020: More help for large employers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a multimillion-dollar loan program aimed at large employers impacted by COVID-19 and the economic downturn it’s prompted.“These are bridge loans, not bailouts,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his address to Canadians from Rideau Cottage on Monday.

Called the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), the plan will allow big companies to access additional liquidity to keep their operations going, retain workers on payroll, and avoid bankruptcy, though the financing comes with a series of terms and conditions.

Read more here.

May 8, 2020: Wage subsidy program to be extended, Trudeau promises.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government’s emergency wage-subsidy program will be extended beyond its early-June endpoint.
Read more here.

May 8, 2020: Assistance programs eligibility tool

Government assistance can be difficult to access in the best of times, and the COVID-19 has resulted in a dizzying array of announcements, programs, and updates. Some programs overlap, and all have different eligibility criteria.
Read more here.

May 7, 2020: Trudeau announces wage top-up for essential workers

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government has reached a deal with all provinces for a wage top-up for essential workers.
Read more here.

May 6, 2020: Ontario announces new list of businesses that can reopen

Ontario has announced a list of more businesses than can open across the province with strict guidelines in place.

Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday garden centres and nurseries will be allowed to reopen as of Friday at 12:01 a.m. On Saturday, hardware stores and safety supply stores will also be allowed to reopen.

On May 11, retail stores with a street entrance will be allowed to reopen for curbside pickup.

Read more here.

May 6, 2020: How employers are planning for a post-COVID-19 world

Stuart appeared on CTV’s Your Morning to talk about what businesses should know before reopening.Watch here.

May 4, 2020: B.C. government extends temporary layoff period to 16 weeks

The B.C. government is extending the maximum allowable length of temporary layoffs in the province from 13 weeks to 16 weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The B.C. Ministry of Labour announced the change Monday in an effort to keep employees connected with their jobs during the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Read more here.

May 1, 2020: Rudner Law video update - Canada Emergency Response Benefit review.

Brittany Taylor gives a summary of the CERB program, how it works, and what your entitlements may be under this program.
Watch here.

May 1, 2020: Health and Safety Association Guidance Documents for Workplaces During the COVID-19 Outbreak

The Ontario government works closely with four provincial health and safety associations (HSAs) to help set, communicate and enforce the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, the HSAs have released a series of more than 50 technical sector guidance documents to further support employers and employees in remaining safe in the workplace during the COVID-19 outbreak.

For more information, click here.

May 1, 2020: Ontario to allow select businesses to reopen on Monday

The Ontario government has announced they will be allowing some businesses to reopen their doors on Monday under strict guidelines.

The businesses include garden centres for curbside pick-up and delivery only, lawn care and landscaping, more construction projects deemed essential, car washes, and auto dealers by appointment only.

Golf courses and marinas will be allowed to begin prepping for their seasons, but will not be permitted to open to the public.

If these businesses follow the proper health and safety workplace guidelines which were released yesterday, they will be allowed to open as of midnight on May 4.

For more information, click here.

May 1, 2020: Rudner Law video update - Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy review.

Brittany Taylor reviews the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and provides a brief summary of this very complicated program to try to assist employers to understand what their entitlements may be.

Watch here.

May 1, 2020: Doug Ford says businesses should ‘get ready’ as Ontario releases new safety guidelines

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province is on the path to reopening the economy, as his government released 65 safety guidelines for businesses, including office spaces, restaurants and the auto industry.

Read more here.

April 29, 2020: Where each province and territory stands with reopening

There are signs that Canada is starting to flatten its curve in the battle against COVID-19, with modeling data suggesting that some provinces have already passed the peak, prompting leaders in those areas to talk about loosening movement restrictions.

Read more here.

April 26, 2020: CRA released guide for Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy applications

Businesses can apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy as of tomorrow, and the CRA has released a guide to help you through the process which you can find here.

April 25, 2020: Ontario increases pay for pandemic frontline workers

Doug Ford has just announced a pay raise that should affect about 350,000 workers dealing with the pandemic.

Provincial workers will be earning $4 more per hour for the next 16 weeks, and full-time workers will receive a $250 lump sum each month.

That means those putting in an average 40-hour work week should receive about $3,560 more over the course of those 16 weeks.

For more information, click here.

April 24, 2020: Deal reached to lower rent by 75 per cent for small businesses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that an agreement has been reached with all provinces and territories to implement the promised rent assistance program for businesses. It will lower rent by 75 per cent for small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19.

For more information, click here.

April 22, 2020: New benefit to help students, recent graduates without summer jobs due to COVID-19

The federal government revealed a $9-billion package of emergency measures for post-secondary students Wednesday, including expanded summer job grants, up to $5,000 for community volunteers and a new $1,250-a-month benefit for students who can’t find work.

For more information, click here.

April 22, 2020: Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: More information and a handy Calculator

The federal government has confirmed that employers will apply for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) through My Business Account on the Canada Revenue Agency website. The application process will open on April 27 and funds are expected to begin flowing on May 5.

In order to better understand your entitlement, employers can use the new CEWS Calculator, which can be found on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy page of the CRA website, which also provides information about the program.

April 21, 2020: Ontario government cautiously begins work on plan to reopen for business

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said that his government is working on a framework to guide the “gradual, measured and safe” reopening of the economy after health officials released data saying community-spread cases of COVID-19 appear to have peaked.

Speaking at Queen’s Park alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, Ford said that while he is working on a plan, he doesn’t want to provide a date for when it will be implemented.

For more information, click here.

April 21, 2020: Applications for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will open April 27, 2020

Prime Minister Trudeau announced this morning that applications for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will open next Monday, April 27, 2020. Employers will be able to apply through their Canada Revenue Agency My Business Account, or through an online portal which will be available on April 27.
The CRA has developed a calculator for employers to assist them to estimate the amount of the subsidy that can be claimed once applications for the CEWS are open. This calculator is available now on the Government of Canada’s website.

April 21, 2020: More help coming for marginalized and Canadian businesses

In his briefing today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce additional measures for marginalized and more severely impacted communities such as seniors, homeless, impoverished and disabled Canadians. 

Read more here.

April 16, 2020: More measures to help Canadian businesses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced more measures to help Canadian businesses get through the COVID-19 crisis, including expanded loan eligibility and assistance with commercial rent.

The previously announced loan program, which offers businesses up to $40,000 in a government-backed loan, will now be available to businesses with payrolls worth between $20,000 and $1.5 million. Previously, the interest-free loan was for those with payrolls worth between $50,000 and one million.

Trudeau also announced a plan to help small businesses pay commercial rents for April, May and June. He said that plan will be worked out with the premiers, as rent issues fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Read more here.

April 15, 2020: CERB availability expanded

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an expansion of the eligibility criteria for CERB as well as support for essential workers who make less than or similar to what they would receive from the CERB.

To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, the government will be changing the eligibility rules to:

  • Allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB.
  • Extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their usual seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Extend the CERB to workers who recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.

In addition, recognizing that certain essential workers’ salaries are often less than or similar to what they would receive from the CERB, the government will work with provinces and territories through a new transfer to cost-share a temporary top-up to the salaries of workers deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19, who make less than $2,500 a month.

Details as to the application and delivery of this measure will be released shortly following further work with provinces and territories.

Read more here.

April 13, 2020: Bill C-14 Receives Royal Assent - Update on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

On April 11, 2020, Bill C-14 (also known as the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, No.2), which formalizes the terms of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program (the “CEWS”), received Royal Assent and became law. This has provided us with specific details of the CEWS, including clarifying some key questions that up until now remained unanswered.

Read more here.

April 13, 2020: Keeping Canadians paid during the COVID-19 pandemic - CityNews

Parliament reconvened Saturday to pass the government’s wage subsidy bill. Caryn Ceolin reports, with an appearance by Stuart, on what it’ll mean for you if you’ve lost your paycheque, and when you could see money flowing if you’re a business.

Watch here.

April 9, 2020: COVID-19 webinar presented by

April 9, 2020: More changes to the Emergency Wage Subsidy including Payroll Contribution Refunds

The federal government announced more tweaks to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and a significant addition: 100 per cent refunds for certain employer-paid contributions to Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, the Quebec Pension Plan, and the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.
As they explain on the web page for the Plan,
this refund would cover 100 per cent of employer-paid contributions for eligible employees for each week throughout which those employees are on leave with pay and for which the employer is eligible to claim for the CEWS for those employees. In general, an employee will be considered to be on leave with pay throughout a week if that employee is remunerated by the employer for that week but does not perform any work for the employer in that week. This refund would not be available for eligible employees that are on leave with pay for only a portion of a week. This refund would not be subject to the weekly maximum benefit per employee of $847 that an eligible employer may claim in respect of the CEWS. There would be no overall limit on the refund amount that an eligible employer may claim. For greater certainty, employers would be required to continue to collect and remit employer and employee contributions to each program as usual. Eligible employers would apply for a refund, as described above, at the same time that they apply for the CEWS.
As we previously advised, the government is adjusting how the required drop in revenue will be assessed:
Eligible Periods Eligibility would generally be determined by the change in an eligible employer’s monthly revenues, year-over-year, for the calendar month in which the period began. Today, the government is announcing that all employers would be allowed to calculate their change in revenue using an alternative benchmark to determine their eligibility. This would provide more flexibility to employers for which the general approach may not be appropriate, including high-growth firms, sectors that faced difficulties in 2019, non-profits and charities, as well as employers established after February 2019. Under this alternative approach, employers would be allowed to compare their revenue using an average of their revenue earned in January and February 2020. Employers would select the general year-over-year approach or this alternative approach when first applying for the CEWS and would be required to use the same approach for the entire duration of the program.

The government has also addressed employee eligibility:

Eligibility for the CEWS of an employee’s remuneration, will be limited to employees that have not been without remuneration for more than 14 consecutive days in the eligibility period, i.e., from March 15 to April 11, from April 12 to May 9, and from May 10 to June 6.

This rule replaces the previously announced restriction that an employer would not be eligible to claim the CEWS for remuneration paid to an employee in a week that falls within a 4-week period for which the employee is eligible for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit.

Lastly, the changes address compliance.

Employers that engage in artificial transactions to reduce revenue for the purpose of claiming the CEWS would be subject to a penalty equal to 25 per cent of the value of the subsidy claimed, in addition to the requirement to repay in full the subsidy that was improperly claimed.

The government also stated that anti-abuse rules would be put in place, but the details have not been announced yet.

For more information, click here.

April 9, 2020: Ontario adding more Health & Safety Inspectors

The government of Ontario announced efforts to ensure essential workplaces are safe during the COVID-19 pandemic by:

  1. Redeploying more than 30 employment standards officers to help businesses understand and comply with health and safety requirements;
  2. Working with health and safety associations to deploy up to 30 specialists to support employers and workers in the field;
  3. Issuing health and safety guidance notes to support specific sectors;
  4. Doubling the capacity of Ontario’s Health and Safety Call Centre from 25 to 50 phonelines;
  5. Providing job-protected leave under the Employment Standards Act for workers who need to self-isolate or care for a loved one because of COVID-19;
  6. Issuing a call to recently-retired inspectors who may be able and willing to return to their positions;
  7. Providing compliance assistance and enforcing the emergency orders issued under the Emergency Measures and Civil Protection Act.

Workers who feel unsafe at work can call  1-877-202-0008.

For more information, click here.

April 8, 2020: Proposed changes to CERB might help more people

As we have reported previously, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is intended to help those who do not qualify for Employment Insurance benefits, such as those who are self-employed or employees that do not have enough insurable hours. However, one of the strongest criticisms has been that in order to qualify, applicants must not have any income during the relevant time period.

The proposed revisions would mean that it will be available to those with drastically reduced earnings; speculation is that it will apply to people working 10 hours or less in a week or earning less than $500 in a month.

For more information, click here.

April 8, 2020: Ottawa wants to loosen rules for the COVID-19 wage subsidy allowing more people to benefit

Businesses still need to attest to the sharper 30 per cent drop in revenue to get the subsidy in April and May, compared with the same months one year earlier, the draft bill says.

The draft also includes new flexibility by allowing certain businesses to use January and February as the reference point for their falling revenue.

Read More

April 7, 2020: COVID-19 Pandemic - Frequently Asked Employment Law Questions - UPDATED

A broad look at the implications of COVID-19 for employers and employees by providing answers to some of the questions we have received from our clients over the past few weeks.

Updated April 6, 2020.

Read Post

April 6, 2020: Wage Subsidies & Work Sharing

There is a plethora of government initiatives to help businesses and their workforce in these unprecedented times. Nadia and Stuart review two of the most popular in this Canadian HR Law blog post

For more information, click here.

April 3, 2020: Ontario releases updated list of essential workplaces

By 11:59 p.m. Saturday, April 4, 2020, businesses that are not identified on this list must close their physical locations.

For more information, click here.

April 3, 2020: Ontario Human Rights Commission Releases COVID-19 Policy Statement

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has released its Policy statement on a human rights-based approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their introduction, they explain that

This policy statement provides guidance to all levels of government on the principles that underlie a human rights-based approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers high-level guidance that applies across a range of potential policy, legal, regulatory, public health and emergency-related responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Principles they set out include:

  1. Approach preventing and treating COVID-19 as a human rights obligation
  2. Respect the rights of First Nations, Métis and Inuit (Indigenous) peoples
  3. Set strict limits on measures that infringe rights
  4. Protect vulnerable groups
  5. Respond to racism, ageism, ableism and other forms of discrimination
  6. Strengthen human rights accountability and oversight

For more information, click here.

April 2, 2020: Unsure how the CERB works and interacts with Employment Insurance?

The Federal government has provided more information on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and, in particular, details about how it interacts with Employment Insurance. We know this has been a source of much confusion.

For more information, click here.

April 2, 2020: Timeline for employers submitting Work-Sharing documentation

Employers are now requested to submit their applications 10 calendar days prior to the requested start date.

Prior to COVID-19, employers were requested to send their Work-Sharing application (and supporting documentation) 30 calendar days prior to their requested start date.

The streamlined measures undertaken by Service Canada will aim to reduce the processing time to 10 calendar days.

For more information, click here.

April 1, 2020: The website for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is now open

The website for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is now open

Applications can be made starting on April 6, 2020. To try to control the volume of applicants, the government has asked people to stagger their applications:

    • April 6th for those born in January, February or March

    • April 7th for those born in April, May or June

    • April 8th for those born in July, August or September

    • April 9th for those born in October, November of December

The Prime Minister stated that employers are still expected to pay their employees wages above the CERB. This is where the CEWS comes into play.

For more information, click here.

April 1, 2020: Details of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Revealed

Finally, some more detail about the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. As we have been saying, this provides much-needed relief and may prevent or reverse many layoffs.

Some highlights from what we understand so far:

  • It will apply from March 15 to June 9, 2020
  • The wage subsidy is 75% of Gross “Regular” Wages to a maximum of $847\week or $58,700 annually
  • Sales must have decreased by at least 30% on a monthly basis when compared with the same month in the prior year (ie. March 2020 sales have to be 30% less than March 2019)
  • Funds will be available to be paid to the employer in approximately six weeks from today’s date (around the middle of May 2020)
  • There have also been indications that the company must show that they are doing everything they can to pay the remaining 25%, but how this would be applied remains unclear.

For more information, click here.

March 31, 2020: Details of Wage Subsidy Delayed

Everyone is anxiously awaiting details of the wage subsidy program, but unfortunately it looks like we have to wait another day.

For more information, click here.

March 31, 2020: A COVID-19 Update from Rudner Law: Layoffs and Wage Cuts

At the end of the day, we know that everyone’s health is the number one priority, but we also want to make sure that people do not compromise their legal rights. We know that many of our clients are struggling. Whatever decisions they make, we want them to be informed decisions.

Read more here.

March 31, 2020: Who can I call for information or to ask a question about financial support from government right now?

Compiled by Jennifer Robson, Associate Professor of Political Management, Carleton University using public information.

Access here.

March 31, 2020: Law Society of Ontario, List of COVID-19 Notices/Resources

We thank the Law Society of Ontario for their extensive list of resources, and for including two of Rudner Law’s documents.

Access their list here.

March 30, 2020: Manitoba extends temporary layoffs because of COVID-19

Under the revised rule, a layoff occurring after March 1, 2020 will not be counted toward the period after which a temporary layoff would become a permanent termination. Normally, the province’s employment standards state that employees who have been laid off for eight or more weeks in a 16-week period are considered terminated and entitled to wages in lieu of notice.
Please remember that this does not give employers the right to lay employees off; it merely amends the parameters if a layoff is otherwise permitted.

March 30, 2020: Great news! Large and small business, non-profits, charities eligible for wage subsidy

A promised federal wage subsidy to cover three-quarters of salaries will go to any company — large, medium or small — charity or non-profit that can show it has seen revenues drop sharply due to COVID-19.
This is great news for employers and employees, as it should allow many layoffs to be avoided.
Learn more here.

March 28, 2020: A little more information about the Temporary Wage Subsidy

Yesterday, the federal government announced that it was increasing the Temporary Wage Subsidy from 10% to 75%. We are still waiting for all of the details, but here is a helpful summary of what we know so far.

March 27, 2020: Trudeau promises 75% wage subsidy for businesses hit by coronavirus

“It’s becoming clear that we need to do more – much more – so we’re bringing that percentage up to 75 per cent for qualifying businesses,” he said. “This means people will continue to be paid even though their employers have to slow down or stop their businesses.”
This should help businesses avoid potential layoffs and constructive dismissal claims.
For more information, click here.

March 26, 2020: Ontario to defer WSIB premium reporting and payments

The Ontario government announced today that all employers covered by WSIB will be able to defer premium reporting and payments until Aug. 31 2020, and no interest will accrue on outstanding premiums during this period.
For more information, click here.

March 26, 2020: Fact sheet for employers and employees

This post addresses some of the main questions and concerns you may have as an employer or employee in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more information, click here.

March 26, 2020: Bill C-13 - Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act


Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act

Worker means a person who is at least 15 years of age, who is resident in Canada and who, for 2019 or in the 12-month period preceding the day on which they make an application under section 5, has a total income of at least $5,000 — or, if another amount is fixed by regulation, of at least that amount — from the following sources:
(a) employment;
(b) self-employment;
(c) benefits paid to the person under any of subsections 22(1), 23(1), 152.‍04(1) and 152.‍05(1) of the Employment Insurance Act; and
(d) allowances, money or other benefits paid to the person under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or in respect of the care by the person of one or more of their new-born children or one or more children placed with them for the purpose of adoption.‍ (travailleur)
6 (1) A worker is eligible for an income support payment if
(a) the worker, whether employed or self-employed, ceases working for reasons related to COVID-19 for at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week period in respect of which they apply for the payment; and
(b) they do not receive, in respect of the consecutive days on which they have ceased working,
(i) subject to the regulations, income from employment or self-employment,
(ii) benefits, as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Employment Insurance Act,
(iii) allowances, money or other benefits paid to the worker under a provincial plan because of pregnancy or in respect of the care by the worker of one or more of their new-born children or one or more children placed with them for the purpose of adoption, or
(iv) any other income that is prescribed by regulation.
(2) An employed worker does not cease work for the purpose of paragraph (1)‍(a) if they quit their employment voluntarily.
Amount of payment
7 (1) The amount of an income support payment for a week is the amount fixed by regulation for that week.
For more information, click here.

March 25, 2020: Ontario releases new action plan

The Ontario government announced another initiative to help those affected by the COVID-19 virus.

With respect to employment, Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19 (March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update) includes:

  • Helping families pay for the extra costs associated with school and daycare closures during the COVID-19 outbreak by providing a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, including children enrolled in private schools.
  • Proposing to double the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months.
  • Supporting more affordable electricity bills for eligible residential, farm and small business consumers, by providing approximately $5.6 billion for electricity cost relief programs in 2020-21, which is an increase of approximately $1.5 billion compared to the 2019 Budget plan.
  • Further supporting more affordable electricity bills by setting electricity prices for residential, farm and small business time-of-use customers at the lowest rate, known as the off-peak price, 24 hours a day for 45 days to support ratepayers in their increased daytime electricity usage as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, addressing concerns about time-of-use metering.
  • Cutting taxes by $355 million for about 57,000 employers through a proposed temporary increase to the Employer Health Tax (EHT) exemption.
  • Providing $9 million in direct support to families for their energy bills by expanding eligibility for the Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) and ensuring that their electricity and natural gas services are not disconnected for nonpayment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Providing emergency child care options to support parents working on the front lines, such as health care workers, police officers, firefighters and correctional officers.
  • Expanding access to the emergency assistance program administered by Ontario Works to provide financial support to people facing economic hardship and help more people meet basic needs such as food and rent during this public health emergency.
  • Enhancing funding by $148 million for charitable and non-profit social services organizations such as food banks, homeless shelters, churches and emergency services to improve their ability to respond to COVID-19, by providing funding directly to Consolidated Municipal Service Managers and District Social Service Administration Boards who would allocate this funding based on local needs.
    • Making available $6 billion by providing five months of interest and penalty relief for businesses to file and make payments for the majority of provincially administered taxes.
    • Over $1.8 billion by deferring the upcoming June 30 quarterly municipal remittance of education property tax to school boards by 90 days, which will provide municipalities the flexibility to, in turn, provide property tax deferrals to residents and businesses, while ensuring school boards continue to receive their funding.
    • Making available $1.9 billion by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) allowing employers to defer payments for up to six months.

For more information, click here.

March 25, 2020: Applications open for self-isolating Albertans in need of financial support

Financial support for working Albertans who are experiencing a loss of income resulting from self-isolation due to COVID-19 is coming, as Alberta opens the application process.

March 25, 2020: Canadians can expect to get $2,000 per month within 10 days

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured struggling and laid off workers that they will be able to access new emergency benefits within 10 days of applying.

People who have been laid off could receive $2,000 every month for four months, the prime minister said Wednesday.

Already, the government has processed 143,000 applications.

For more information, click here.

March 25, 2020: Trudeau combines emergency COVID-19 aid benefit for Canadians

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the government is merging two previously announced employment insurance benefits for Canadians who are out of, or off work because of COVID-19.

He is also vowing that more financial assistance will come as the pandemic wages on, with the first $82-billion aid package set to flow as soon as it passes Parliament on Wednesday.

The new benefit combines the Emergency Care Benefit and Emergency Support Benefit — into the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and will provide up to $2,000 a month for the next four months for people who are off work and without an income as a result of the novel coronavirus.

For more information, click here.

For the official announcement, click here.

March 25, 2020: Can you refuse work during a pandemic? - CityNews

A pandemic alone is not reason enough to miss work, but an employee can refuse if there is a legitimate threat to their safety. Stuart appeared on CityNews to discuss the unusual circumstances we are currently dealing with.

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March 25, 2020: Thousands of businesses may be breaking the law - Toronto Star

Stuart told the Star that many businesses don’t have the right to lay their employees off, and there may be a wave of wrongful dismissal lawsuits in the coming weeks or months.

Read More

March 25, 2020: Saskatchewan amends law to remove notice requirement for temporary layoff

The Government of Saskatchewan amended its Employment Standards Regulations relating to layoffs caused by a public health emergency.

The amendments provide that a public health emergency arises if:

  1. an emergency declaration is made under The Emergency Planning Act; or
  2. the Chief Medical Health Officer makes an order that a disease poses a serious public health risk in Saskatchewan and that individuals must take measures to isolate themselves to prevent spread of that disease.

In such circumstances, an employer will not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice of layoff which would normally be required.

Note that this does not alter the common law or in any way grant a common law right to lay employees off that did not exist before. As we have discussed repeatedly, laying an employee of temporarily can constitute a constructive dismissal.

March 24, 2020: What is an "essential workplace" anyways?

As governments struggle to find ways to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we have seen many orders and directions regarding how business is to be conducted. In some cases, industries have been shut down entirely. Earlier this week, the government of Ontario announced the shutdown of all non-essential businesses effective midnight tonight.

Read More

March 24, 2020: Remember, temporary layoffs are not always allowed

Stuart and the team have been saying this for years, but it has never been so relevant:

Businesses do not automatically have the right to lay someone off on a temporary basis.

Doing so can constitute a constructive dismissal and expose the company to liability that far exceeds any short-term cost savings.

Business owners should not assume that they have the right to lay people off temporarily, even during a pandemic.

And employees that are laid off should not assume that they have no rights.

For a recent post by Stuart on the topic, click here.

March 23, 2020: Ontario announces essential services

As we reported earlier, the Government of Ontario has announced a shutdown of non-essential services. They have now clarified the scope of this by listing those services that are considered to be essential.

The Government also confirmed that this does not preclude the provision of work and services by entities not on this list either online, by telephone or by mail/delivery, and that teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses.

For  more information, click here.

March 23, 2020: Rudner Law's detailed list of COVID-19 workplace resources

Our team has put together a detailed list of resources to help you understand your legal rights and obligations when it comes to COVID-19 and the workplace.

Download Now

March 23, 2020: Toronto to declare state of emergency

Reports are that Mayor John Tory will declare a state of emergency in Toronto, effective immediately.

This will allow decisions to be made without going to a council vote.

For more information, click here.

March 23, 2020: Ontario Government announces shutdown of non-essential services

Premier Doug Ford has announced the shutdown of all non-essential services across the province in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19

Essential services that will remain open include manufacturers, supermarkets, LCBO, pharmacies and restaurants offering takeout.

For more information, click here.

March 23, 2020: How to find out if your business qualifies for the COVID-19 wage subsidy

Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy was announced last week and is set to be in place for three months.

It will be equal to 10 per cent of total remuneration paid between March 18, 2020, and June 20, 2020, up to a maximum of $1,375 per worker and $25,000 per employer.

The wage subsidy is limited to eligible small businesses. The CRA says that includes the following:

  • Non-profit organizations.
  • Registered charities.
  • Canadian-controlled private corporations with less than $15 million in taxable capital employed in Canada, a measure also used to calculate the existing small business deduction.

If a business is eligible, but not paying employees during the applicable period because it is closed, it does not qualify.

For more information, click here.

March 23, 2020: Ontario gives hospitals temporary power over staff to deal with COVID-19 pandemic

The provincial government announced a state of emergency earlier this week, and on Saturday night it said that it would use the declaration to allow hospitals to override collective agreements.

“The province is taking decisive action to ensure we can continue to be responsive and nimble as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grows,” Solicitor General Syliva Jones said.

“While normal protocols are important in routine times, these extraordinary steps will ensure our health sector workers are there, where and when they are needed.”

Hospitals can now move staff between locations and to COVID-19 assessment centres without notice.

It also allows hospitals to assign non-bargaining unit employees, volunteers or contract employees to do bargaining unit work.

Hospitals can now change the scheduling of work or shift assignments, as well as defer or cancel vacations, absences or other leaves

They can also start employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors.

For more information, click here.

March 22, 2020: Toronto to provide free, 24/7 childcare for essential and critical service workers

The City of Toronto says it will provide free childcare 24 hours a day, seven days a week for children of essential and critical workers as they serve on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus.

The announcement comes after the Province of Ontario said Sunday that it will allow some childcare centres in the province to stay open to care for the children of health workers and first responders.

The centres in Toronto will be funded by the province. They are expected to open as soon as possible and will be available for children from infant to age 12.

For more information, click here.

March 22, 2020: What to do if you’ve been laid off due to COVID-19 - CityNews

While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many Canadians having been temporarily laid off, it’s important to have frank conversations with your employers and pay attention to what’s in your contract. Stuart spoke to CityNews about this.

Watch Now

March 22, 2020: More help coming from the federal government

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Sunday the House of Commons will be recalled on Tuesday at 12 p.m. in order to pass emergency legislation to help fight COVID-19.

Trudeau made the announcement from Rideau Cottage, where he is currently in self-isolation.

Trudeau said this will allow the government to “put their plan into motion,” including up to $82 billion in support for families, workers and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

For more information, click here.

March 22, 2020: Nova Scotia declares state of emergency effective immediately

As of Sunday, the province of Nova Scotia will be limiting gatherings to no more than five (5) people.

The Premier said Nova Scotians are still permitted to go grocery shopping or for walks in their own neighbourhoods, provided they are careful about social distancing.

Minister of Justice Mark Furey told the public that police would now be authorized to enforce social distancing, including issuing summary offense tickets and fines.

“The fines are for individuals found in breach of the order, $1,000 for each fine, each day,” said Furey.

For businesses, the fines would be $7,500 each day.

For more information, click here.

March 22, 2020: Loblaw to increase frontline worker pay due to coronavirus: union

UFCW said they have negotiated a $2 increase in hourly pay for all frontline employees across the country.

“The wage increase is in the process of being implemented and will be applied to the hourly rates of both full-time and part-time workers at all Loblaw stores and associated banners,” said union president Paul Meinema.

The pay increase announcement came out on the same day Loblaw said they plan to install plexiglass barriers to protect their employees from COVID-19.

For more information, click here.

March 20, 2020: Information for Dentists and Dental Practices - Rudner Law Blog - UPDATED

The purpose of this post is to try to address some of the main questions and concerns you may have as an employer in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated March 20, 2020.

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March 20, 2020: Information on the Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) Program

The SUB Program can be a great option for employers who need to lay off employees due to the impact of COVID-19 on their business.

Learn More

March 20, 2020: 6 key questions on how employers should handle staffing during pandemic

The questions keep flying when it comes to how employers can and should respond during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stuart spoke to HR Reporter to provide some key answers.

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March 20, 2020: COVID-19 Pandemic - Frequently Asked Employment Law Questions - UPDATED

A broad look at the implications of COVID-19 for employers and employees by providing answers to some of the questions we have received from our clients over the past few weeks.

Updated March 20, 2020.

Read Post

March 19, 2020: Ontario government enacts Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies)

The Ontario government has taken further steps to help workers impacted by the COVID-19 virus. This Act provided job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives.

It also provides that

An employee is entitled to take a leave under clause (1.1) (a) for as long as he or she is not performing the duties of his or her position because of an emergency declared under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and a reason referred to in subclauses (1.1) (a) (i) to (iv), but, subject to subsection (6), the entitlement ends on the day the emergency is terminated or disallowed.

    For more information, click here and here.

    March 19, 2020: New Brunswick declares state of emergency

    Among other things,

    • all retail outlets except grocery stores, pharmacies, NB Liquor, Cannabis NB, hardware stores and vehicle garages will be ordered to close.
    • restaurants will be restricted to takeout service, while bars must close.
    • anyone who is told to self-isolate by a medical professional must comply by law under the province’s Emergency Measures Act.

    For more information, click here.

    March 19, 2020: Work Sharing Might be an Option when Reducing Employee Hours

    Among many initiatives to assist those impacted by COVID-19, the Federal Government announced that it would

    Introduce enhancements to the Work-Sharing program to help support employers and their workers who are experiencing a downturn in business due to COVID-19. Work-sharing helps keep workers employed and able to receive income support even as their hours of work may be reduced. These enhancements will double the length of time that employers and workers are eligible to use work-share from 38 to 76 weeks, and streamline processes so help can be accessed as soon as possible.

    This can be helpful for employers that need to reduce the working hours of some or all of their employees. However, there is a waiting period and a formalized process to be followed.

    For more information, click here.

    March 19, 2020: COVID-19 Pandemic and Travel - What Should Employers Do? - UPDATED

    We provide you with some practical recommendations to ensure you are complying with your legal obligations as an employer. Employees as well will benefit from reviewing this blog post to understand their rights. The reality is that this is a relatively novel situation and employers, employees and Employment Lawyers are all working through the issues that this has created.

    Updated March 19.

    Read Post

    March 18, 2020: Statement from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health

    As forwarded by the Human Resources Professionals Association:
    Statement from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health: Enhanced Measures to Protect Ontarians from COVID-19
    The Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, issued the following statement detailing enhanced public health measures to help contain the spread of COVID-19:
    Following a number of significant announcements regarding travel and public health measures over the past 72 hours, and after further consultations with my colleagues across Canada, I would like to take the opportunity to clarify my guidance to Ontarians on COVID-19.
    This is an evolving situation, and your role in helping to manage the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario is critical. It is imperative that we take steps now and take steps together to reduce opportunities for transmission. I am asking for your cooperation in following the advice below as best you can over the coming weeks. By working together, we can make a difference in this outbreak and protect those among us who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.
    The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, new cough and difficulty breathing, and these may occur within 14 days of an exposure to another case.
    Dr. Williams continued by strongly recommending a further limitation to public gatherings from his advice on March 12, 2020. He is further advising Ontarians to avoid large gatherings of over 50 people. 
    In addition, he specifically requests the closure of the following settings as soon as possible:
    • All recreational programs and libraries
    • All private schools
    • All daycares
    • All churches and other faith settings
    •  All bars and restaurants, with the exception of restaurants that can shift to takeout/delivery mechanisms
    If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19
    Everyone in Ontario should be practicing social distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. This means that one can carry out daily activities, such as going to work (if they cannot work from home) and doing necessary shopping and appointments. 
    It is asked that everyone in Ontario do their best to avoid close contact with people outside of their immediate families. Close contact includes being within 2 meters of another person. 
    In addition Dr. Williams explained, If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms, he recommends that you begin to self-monitor for a period of 14 days. This means that, in addition to social distancing, you should track how you feel. You should take your temperature daily and log any other symptoms that develop (e.g., sore throat, new cough). You can share these records with your primary care provider over the phone if you seek assessment services. 
    All persons over 70 years of age and individuals who are immunocompromised are advised to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. This means that you should only leave your home or see other people for essential reasons.  Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands. 
    If you have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days and are not a healthcare worker or another essential service worker, he asks that you self-isolate for 14 days since your arrival in Canada. People who are self-isolating should not go to work. Learn about travel advisories related to the 2019 novel coronavirus.
    Workers who have travelled and are part of workplaces that are essential to daily living are able to return to work as long as they are asymptomatic. However, they should self-monitor for a period of 14 days and identify themselves to their employer so that a plan can be put into place to ensure the protection of those workplaces.
    Children under the age of 16 years who have travelled outside of Canada should also self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Parents should actively monitor their children’s symptoms. Children who are self-isolating should stay at home and avoid social gathering points such as community centres or parks.
    Public Health Ontario has excellent fact sheets on how to self monitor and self isolate.
    If you start to feel symptoms of COVID-19:
    Dr. Williams requests anyone who begins to feel unwell (fever, new cough or difficulty breathing) to return home and self-isolate immediately. People who are self-isolating should seek clinical assessment over the phone – either through TeleHealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000) or by calling their primary care provider’s office. If one needs additional assessment, their primary care provider or TeleHealth will direct them to in-person care options. If one is in medical distress and need urgent care, they should call 911 and let 911 know what they are self-isolating because of COVID-19.
    If you are an employer:
    Dr. Williams asks all employers in Ontarians to facilitate virtual work arrangements to enable employees to work from home where possible to enable workers to limit their activities, care for children and to self isolate. However, he recognizes that there are a number of workplaces where this is not possible. He would ask those employers to use their judgement to sustain operations in a manner that maintains social distancing.
    If need to seek health care for COVID-19:
    If one is unwell and needs to seek health assessment for COVID-19 there are three options to available:
    • A Self Assessment Tool available at:
    • Telehealth Ontario at: 1-866-797-0000 (24/7)
    • One’s primary care provider – they should call their primary care provider and they will provide virtual assessment by phone or other technology. One should not book an in-person visit for COVID-19 assessment without first having a virtual assessment. 
    • If one requires an in-person health assessment, they will be referred to an appropriate location for in-person health assessment.  Only people with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested. 
    Health Reminders:
    Dr. Williams wants to remind all Ontarians that there are important actions that they should be taking every day in order to protect your health. These include:
    • Washing your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
    • Sneezing and cough into your sleeve
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
    • Avoid contact with people who are sick
    • Stay at home if you are sick. In particular, do not visit a long-term care, retirement home or other congregate living situation. 
    The well-being of our members, volunteers, stakeholders and staff is our utmost priority, and we will continue to update you on the evolving situation. We hope that you and your families remain safe and healthy as this global health challenge continues to unfold.

    March 18, 2020: COVID-19, layoffs, and frustration of contract

    Professor David Doorey is a well-known and well-respected leader in the world of Employment and Labour Law. He has posted “an introduction” to COVID-19, layoffs, and Employment Standards which can be found here.

    Among other things, Professor Doorey reminds us that according to the common law, a temporary layoff can trigger a constructive dismissal. Employers should not assume they have the right to unilaterally lay someone off, even if there is a shortage of work. And employees should not assume a layoff can be imposed upon them.

    Of course, as Professor Doorey also points out, the present circumstances could lead to a finding that employment contracts have been frustrated, which would allow the employer to bring about the end of the employment relationship without the requirement of providing notice or compensation. This point is certainly open to argument, at least until the government enacts legislation to address the issue.

    March 18, 2020: Canadian government unveils $82bn in aid for families, business

    New measures to help individuals and businesses impacted  by COVID-19 (which, of course, is most of us) were announced by Prime Minister Trudeau today. They include:

    • A new Emergency Care Benefit that will provide up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks for Canadians without paid sick leave or access to Employment Insurance sickness benefits (this will assist those forced to self-isolate)
    • The Canada Revenue Agency will provide up to $5 billion for unemployed workers without access to EI through a new Emergency Support Benefit
    • A subsidy equal to 10 per cent of employee wages, up to $1,375 per employees and $25,000 per employer, to help businesses avoid layoffs

    For more information, click here.

    March 18, 2020: How to apply for EI sickness benefits and the new emergency worker fund

    Our federal government is offering new financial support for Canadians whose jobs have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Wednesday that the government will provide up to $27 billion for workers and businesses.

    The emergency care benefit will provide up to $900 every two weeks, for up to 15 weeks, to help Canadian workers who

    1. cannot go to work,
    2. do not have paid sick leave and
    3. do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.

    This includes those who are sick themselves, as well as those who are staying home to look after others who are sick or children who are not in school.

    The emergency support benefit will offer payments of undisclosed amounts to unemployed workers who are not eligible for EI.

    More information about applying for EI sickness benefits is available on the government’s website.

    For more information, click here.

    March 18, 2020: Ontario cancels EQAO

    Students (including Stuart’s kids) will be happy to learn Ontario is cancelling standardized tests for elementary and high school students throughout the province for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. That includes EQAO.

    For more information, click here.

    March 18, 2020: Canada-US border to close to non-essential travel

    The Canadian and American governments are working on a border closure that will see all non-essential travel banned. Details have yet to be finalized but are expected to be announced in the next day or so.

    March 17, 2020: Ontario government declares state of emergency

    The Ontario Government has declared a state of emergency for Ontario due to the coronavirus outbreak. Ontario is the first province to do so. 

    This is not a province-wide shutdown, and many businesses will continue to operate, including grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, manufacturing facilities, public transit, important public services, construction sites and office buildings.

    However, the following are required to close:

     the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:

    • All facilities providing indoor recreational programs
    • All public libraries
    • All private schools as defined in the Education Act
    • All licensed child care centres
    • All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery
    • All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies
    • Concert venues

    For more information, click here.

    March 17, 2020: Alberta Government Declares COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency

    The Government of Alberta has taken this aggressive step. Gatherings of groups of 50 or more are banned and citizens are also banned from public places like casinos, bingo halls, theatres, children’s play centres, recreation centres and arenas, science centres, museums and art galleries, community centres, fitness facilities, and entertainment facilities like movie theatres.

    Note that the ban does not apply to health care facilities, grocery stores, airports, the Alberta legislature, and other essential services.

    Sit-down restaurants, cafés, coffee shops, food courts and other food-serving facilities, including those with a minors-allowed liquor license, are limited to 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 50 people.

    For more information, click here.

    March 17, 2020: Fire Away Discussion - How to Navigate COVID-19 in the Workplace

    Richa Sandill, Brittany Taylor and Nadia Zaman joined Stuart for a discussion on the workplace challenges facing employers and employees during the COVID-19 outbreak.

    Watch Video

    March 16, 2020: A Message From Rudner Law Regarding COVID-19

    This is unprecedented, and any unprecedented situation results in questions and uncertainty. It can also result in risk and legal liability. There are many questions, and the key is to have proper legal advice so that you can make an informed decision.

    Read Post

    March 16, 2020: COVID-19 Pandemic - Frequently Asked Employment Law Questions

    A broad look at the implications of COVID-19 for employers and employees by providing answers to some of the questions we have received from our clients over the past few weeks.

    Read Post

    March 13, 2020: COVID-19 Pandemic and Travel - What Should Employers Do?

    We provide you with some practical recommendations to ensure you are complying with your legal obligations as an employer. Employees as well will benefit from reviewing this blog post to understand their rights. The reality is that this is a relatively novel situation and employers, employees and Employment Lawyers are all working through the issues that this has created.

    Read Post

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