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In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Ontario government is expanding the number of approved workplace leaves of absence available to employees.

Under the expanded provisions, employees have the right to remain away from work (without pay) in a variety of circumstances and employers are barred from terminating an employee’s employment because the employee has taken an approved leave.

The following addresses the top four (4) questions we are receiving related to these new leave of absence provisions:

1. Who Gets A Job-Protected Leave?

Under the new provisions, employees are eligible to take a job-protected leave of absence if they are unable to work for a variety of reasons, such as the following :

  • The employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment related to a designated infectious disease (e.g. COVID-19)
  • The employee is in quarantine or isolation or is subject to a control measure (including, but not limited to, self-isolation), based on the information or direction of a public health official, a qualified health practitioner, Telehealth Ontario, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada, a municipal council or a board of health
  • The employer directs the employee to take a leave of absence because of concern that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to a designated infectious disease (i.e. COVID-19)
  • The employee is unable to work because of a public health order
  • The employee is directly affected by travel restrictions related to the designated infectious disease (e.g. COVID-19) and, under the circumstances, cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to Ontario
  • The employee is providing care or support to a prescribed family member because of a matter related to the designated infectious disease (e.g. COVID-19). Such matters of concern include, but are not limited to, school or daycare closures.

*Please note that as the situation surrounding COVID 19 is evolving rapidly, we strongly recommend that any employee seeking to take a leave consult with a lawyer regarding enforcement of their potential rights.

2. How Long Can I have Protected Leave For?

As long as the infectious disease (e.g. COVID-19) remains designated for the purposes of the Employment Standards Act, there is no limit to the number of days an employee may be absent from work due to the above reasons.

3. Do I Need to Provide a Medical Note?

No. Under the new provisions, employers are prohibited from requiring an employee to provide a medical note if the employee requests leave for these reasons. However, the employer may require the employee to provide other evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances.

*If you are asked to provide proof to justify your leave you should consider consulting with a lawyer to determine if your employer is legally entitled to ask for the information/documentation they are requesting.

4. What If My Employer Does Not Allow Me to Take a Leave?

If you are entitled to leave under the provisions and your employer is refusing to allow you to take a leave of absence, you should contact an employment lawyer who can review and advise you on how to manage your situation. Employers who violate the Employment Standards Act can be subject to a range of penalties, including significant fines.

For further information on any of the above or other questions, whether relating to COVID-19, leaves of absences, layoff or termination of employment, please contact Toronto employment lawyers Sultan Lawyers PC at mlahert@sultanlawyers.com or here.