The Government of Ontario has announced today (December 21st, 2020), that ALL of Ontario will move to the “Lockdown/Grey” stage of the COVID-19 Response Framework effective Saturday, December 26th, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and this will last until Jan. 23rd, 2021 for all regions in southern Ontario. Health units not in southern Ontario will remain in lockdown until Jan. 9th, 2021. Please refer to our previous blog post on the provincial framework and what businesses need to be aware of with regard to lockdown requirements/obligations for the workplace.
The Ontario government has also taken proactive measures to extend the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave or IDEL, again, to July 3rd 2021. The new regulation was passed on December 17th 2020, in the new O. Reg. 765/20. This was announced in a provincial Press release on December 17th 2020.
Previously, on May 29, 2020, the Government of Ontario had introduced O. Reg. 228/20 Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (“IDEL”), as a regulation under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) that provided relief to any employer that had temporarily laid off or reduced the wages and/or hours of a non-union employee, due to COVID-19. The regulation largely exempts any such layoff or reduction from being deemed a termination of employment, such that there is no obligation to provide ESA notice or severance pay. The employee was deemed to be on a protected leave of absence - the IDEL.
If this regulation had not been passed, any layoff or wage/hour reduction by an employer (without the express consent of the affected employee), would have triggered a termination of employment, thus entitling the employee to ESA notice and severance pay obligations by the employer.
Initially, the new regulation applied to a temporary layoff or reduction in wages and/or hours due to COVID19, between March 1, 2020 and September 4, 2020 (the “COVID-19 Period”). But this COVID-19 Period was then extended to January 2, 2021 by legislation passed in early September 2020. The net result is that an employee who has been laid off or had their wages and/or hours reduced for COVID-19 related reasons can continue to be on an IDEL until July 3, 2021, without triggering termination and severance pay obligations under the ESA (unless the employee is laid off due to a permanent discontinuance of business, in which case the employee is entitled to severance pay under the ESA).
There is also a new special industry regulation O.Reg 764/20 which is applicable to unionized employers in the hospitality, tourism and convention and trade show industries which permits an employer and trade union to negotiate an alternate arrangement. So if a union and employer agree to apply the regulation:
- there would be no obligation to hold termination and severance pay amounts in trust;
- a union may elect to retain recall rights for some or all of its employee members, and this election is binding on an employee (unless they had already elected to be paid out termination and severance pay entitlements);
- if the union has elected to retain recall rights on behalf of an employee, the employee cannot renounce the right to be recalled prior to a date agreed to by the employer and union, and the union may not renounce the right to be recalled on the employee’s behalf.
If you’re a Beneplan client please contact the HR consultant at Beneplan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 647 943 0247 for question or support on this and other HR topics that you may require assistance with. This service is complimentary, for Beneplan clients. If you’re not yet a Beneplan client, get in touch so we can build a better benefits plan for you and your employees.