In this post, we detail two government announcements (one provincial and one federal) made yesterday that will impact workplaces that are set to reopen as early as Friday June 12, as parts of the province enter Stage 2 of Ontario’s Reopening Plan.
PROVINCIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: CHILD CARE AND HOME CARE
The province announced yesterday that childcare and home care centers will be permitted to reopen with strict safety and operational requirements. These services will be critical to enable employees to return to work in the businesses and services that have been given the green light to reopen as of Friday, June 12.
There are strict safety guidelines for the childcare facilities which include a requirement to have a plan in place if a child, parent, or staff member demonstrates symptoms of COVID-19 or becomes sick. The Ministry of Education’s Operational Guidance document is available here.
What This Means for Your Workplace
Under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 an employee who is providing care or support to a child or other specified family member due to day care or school closures is entitled to take a job-protected Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. Many workers qualified for this leave from March to June on this basis. With the re-opening of more childcare facilities, employees may lose their eligibility for this leave as childcare again becomes available. Employers will need to discuss the availability of childcare options with any employees who indicate that they cannot return to work due to parental obligations. Remember that childcare falls within family status, which is a protected ground under the Human Rights Code, and so employers may have a duty to accommodate.
FEDERAL ANNOUNCEMENT: TIGHTER RULES FOR CERB
Yesterday, the federal government announced an intention to introduce legislation which would impose tighter rules for claiming the CERB and impose penalties against those that have exploited the CERB benefit. The House of Commons has been recalled and will debate the Bill this afternoon. The proposed legislation indicates that Canadians will not be eligible to claim the CERB if:
- they fail to go back to work when it is reasonable to do so, and their employer asks them to return;
- they fail to resume self-employment when it’s reasonable to do so; or
- they decline a reasonable job offer when they are able to work.
The Bill also lays out penalties for claimants whose applications include information that is “false or misleading,” and for those who “knowingly failed” to disclose sources of income or other relevant facts when they applied for the federal aid. The Prime Minister has suggested that the intent is not to punish those who made honest mistakes in claiming the CERB. An offence could net a fine of up to $5,000, plus a penalty equal to double the amount of the income support claimed, or a fine plus a period of imprisonment up to six months, according to the proposed legislation.
CERB was initially set up as a benefit Canadians could claim for up to 16 weeks with the requirement to re-apply every 4 weeks. This bill proposes to allow Canadians to apply to collect the CERB for any period of 2 weeks between July 5 and October 3.
The NDP, Bloc, and Conservatives have all indicated that they don’t like the Bill as it is currently drafted. As a result, there is a significant degree of uncertainty about which of the proposed provisions will be passed and which will be amended. We will let you know when we know more but please, for now, treat the above information as a heads up only.
What This Means for Your Workplace
As indicated above, the proposed legislation has not yet passed as of this email, and other political parties have signalled disagreement with aspects of the proposed legislation. However, we could soon see tighter restrictions on the CERB that could eliminate the disincentive to return to work while the CERB is so readily available. Refusing a reasonable job offer to return to work could disqualify the employee from qualifying for the CERB. There are likely going to be difficult conversations and decisions ahead if an employee refuses to return to work when a reasonable job offer is made. The allowance for a 2-week CERB benefit will allow employees to collect the CERB in the event they are required to stay home, which could arise if an employee shows symptoms of COVID-19 or needs to stay home to care for someone with symptoms.
We will continue to monitor developments from today’s House sitting and provide updates accordingly.