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As of 12:01 am April 8, 2021, the province of Ontario entered a state of emergency and province-wide stay-at-home order due to an increase in COVID-19 infections throughout the province.

The restrictions under the current state of emergency are like those that were in place in January, although, with some differences. This article will provide an overview of the restrictions, address the impact on workers, and highlight some of your entitlements and rights as a worker to keep in mind. The impact of these provisions is important because they will have a direct impact on the number of layoffs, human rights violations, and related terminations of employment.

SHUTDOWN RESTRICTIONS

Similar to the previous shutdown, all non-essential retailers will be closed to in-person shopping. In-person dining (inside and outside), gyms, and personal services are additionally prohibited.

In addition, businesses are required to ensure that workers perform work remotely unless they are required to be on-site to perform their duties.

One new restriction under this shutdown applies to big box stores (i.e., Costco, Walmart, Superstore). These stores are now restricted to selling only essential goods, meaning food and health products. Certain clothing and other non-essential retail products offered at these stores will now be sectioned off from the rest of the store.

IMPACT ON WORKERS

Working remotely

Many of those who are able to work from home have been doing so for the past year. If you have started to attend the workplace, you will not be required to work remotely if your job duties allow for it.

As a reminder, when working from home, your rights as a worker continue. Ensure that you maintain records of hours worked and gain an understanding of workplace policies surrounding privacy as well as accommodation. To read more about your rights while working remotely, read our post here.

Essential workers

If your position requires that you be physically present in the workplace, the changes under this shutdown may not drastically change your work. Businesses may be adjusting their operations and confronting strain due to this shutdown, however, your entitlements as a worker remain.

WORKER’S ENTITLEMENTS

The following are some items to consider/keep in mind:

  • Health and safety: you have the right to safe work, meaning that your workplace should be compliant with public health requirements (i.e., masks and proper disinfecting protocols). If you have concerns about this, read more here.
  • Job-protected leave: The infectious disease emergency leave remains in force, meaning that if you are unable to perform your work for COVID-19 related reasons, you are entitled to an unpaid, job-protected leave. Your employer cannot threaten you, terminate your employment (i.e., fire you), or penalize you for taking an infectious disease emergency leave.
  • Temporary Layoff: As businesses may financially suffer during the shutdown, temporary layoffs and/or termination of employment may increase. At this time, a temporary layoff that extends past the usual maximum period (13 weeks in a period of 20 consecutive weeks) will not be considered a termination of employment. Rather, you are considered to be on infectious disease emergency leave until you are recalled to work.

If you have any questions with respect to Ontario’s COVID-19 April emergency measures and the impact they might have with respect to your employment rights, temporary layoff, termination of employment, wrongful dismissal, or otherwise, please contact Toronto employment and immigration lawyersSultan Lawyers, at (416) 214-5111 or via mlahert@sultanlawyers.com.


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