TORONTO — The Toronto Construction Association reports in its latest newsletter that special COVID-19 provisions in the Employment Standards Act (ESA) have been extended into 2021.
During the COVID-19 period, now March 1, 2020 to July 3, 2021, a non-unionized employee is deemed to be on a job-protected infectious disease emergency leave under the ESA any time their hours of work are temporarily reduced or temporarily eliminated by their employer for reasons related to COVID-19, states a Province of Ontario release.
A non-unionized employee is not considered to be laid off nor constructively dismissed under the ESA if their employer temporarily reduces or temporarily eliminates their hours of work or wages for reasons related to COVID-19.
Beginning next July 4, non-unionized employees will no longer be deemed to be on infectious disease emergency leave.
On that date, the ESA’s regular rules around constructive dismissal will resume. This means a significant reduction or elimination of an employee’s hours of work or wages may be considered a constructive dismissal, even if it was done for reasons related to COVID-19.
The ESA’s regular rules around temporary layoff resume at that time. For practical purposes, a non-unionized employee’s temporary layoff clock resets on July 4, 2021.
“Business owners continue to face challenging times during this pandemic, with many struggling to keep their doors open. Having to come up with termination and severance pay at this time could drive many of them under,” stated Ontario Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton in a Dec. 17 release. “Our government will continue to provide businesses with the support they need until they can reopen and return to full operations. We want to ensure employees have jobs to return to when the economy rebounds from the COVID-19 economic crisis.”
The regulation also states that even though the COVID-19 period ends on July 3, 2021 and non-unionized employees will no longer be deemed after July 3, 2021 to be on infectious disease emergency leave, unionized and non-unionized employees may continue to be eligible to take infectious disease emergency leave if they are not performing the duties of their position for certain reasons related to COVID-19.