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Ontario intends to introduce legislation which would immediately provide 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.
"While everyone's concerns about their health and safety is top of mind, the last thing we need is anyone worrying about job security as the COVID-19 situation evolves," said Premier Doug Ford. "That's why I directed the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development to draft legislation that will protect workers and their families during this difficult period."
At a March. 16 press conference Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development said "mothers and fathers who need to care for children or dependants shouldn't have to worry about losing their job."
"The same goes for people who receive medical or public health advice and are required to take precautions as a result. They shouldn't have to worry about losing their job. In this time of uncertainty, we need to support employees who must isolate or quarantine themselves, or who need to care for a loved one," he said.
Provincial officials said they are working closely with Federal counterparts to ensure that EI benefits will be paid to employees who will need to take time off work, however, employers will not be expected to pay for COVID-19 sick leave.
The proposed legislation would, if passed, provide job protection for employees unable to work for the following reasons:
· The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19.
· The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
· The employee is in isolation or quarantine.
· The employee is acting in accordance with public health information or direction.
· The employer directs the employee not to work.
· The employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.
The proposed legislation would also make it clear that an employee will not be required to provide a medical note if they take the leave. The measures would be retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario.
Provincial officials say that many workers will be eligible for Employment Insurance sickness benefits. As well, they are reviewing current access and eligibility to emergency assistance which is available through the Ontario Works (OW) program to support individuals who are impacted by the coronavirus and who are not able to meet their basic living expenses.
"The health and well-being of Ontarians continues to be our government's number one priority," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "We are actively working with our partners at all levels in the health care system and implementing enhanced and comprehensive measures to prevent the spread of this virus and protect the health of all Ontarians."