The COVID-19 period for Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) has once again been extended, this time to January 1, 2022. The COVID-19 period for this leave which, at its inauguration was set to end on September 4, 2020, has been extended multiple times – first to January 2, 2021, then to July 3, 2021, then again to September 25, 2021, and now into the new year.
To Whom Does this Leave Apply?
This IDEL applies to employees who were laid off or had their hours temporarily reduced from March 1, 2020 to January 1, 2022. Employees on this deemed IDEL are exempted, under a provincial regulation that amended certain segments of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), from being deemed to have been terminated. These employees are not owed ESA notice or severance pay.
Employers should, however, note that this regulation does not preclude an employee from pursuing a common law claim for constructive dismissal on the basis of a temporary reduction or elimination of hours as a result of COVID-19 reasons. Courts are currently split on whether these claims will succeed. See our past post on the issue.
This extension acknowledges the uncertainties and challenges that employers continue to face as a result of the pandemic. Though many employees are beginning to return to work, COVID-19 still very much continues to have a strong impact on businesses and their workforce needs and capacities.
Once this deemed IDEL ends, regular layoff rules will recommence. In other words, after January 1, 2022, an employer can only lay off employees for 13 weeks or, up to 35 weeks, if benefits are continued.
What About Employees Who Asked to Go on the IDEL?
The above extension of the COVID-19 period impacts employees who were put on leaves by their employers. Timelines have not changed for employees who went on an IDEL voluntarily. This leave is available to employees who need time away from work for reasons related to COVID-19, such as childcare obligations, being in quarantine, having COVID-19 or caring for someone with COVID-19. These employees’ right to their IDEL will continue as long as the circumstances leading to their leave continue and as long as COVID-19 is designated as an infectious disease.
A Quick Note about the Paid IDEL
We note that the paid IDEL – which provides employees with three paid sick days for various COVID-19 related reasons and was originally set to end on September 25, 2021 – has been extended to December 31, 2021.
If you need help with navigating the IDEL, get in touch for a consultation.
If you’re looking to reopen the office and don’t know where to start, please check out our OMG the Office is Open!!! Toolkit (which is currently deeply discounted). This DIY toolkit has 20 Employment Law Resources to help get you back in the office safely and smoothly, while meeting your company’s legal obligations.