The state of emergency in Ontario ended on July 24, 2020. This means a new clock has started ticking for employers with employees on what were temporary layoffs but were then converted into deemed Infectious Disease Emergency Leaves (IDEL) by O. Reg 228/20. While this sounds confusing, basically if your employees are off work involuntarily (you told them to stop working vs. they asked to take a leave) then they have been on a deemed IDEL since March 1, 2020.
The end of the state of emergency means that the deemed IDEL will end on September 4, 2020.
The deemed IDEL provided protection to employers from the regular lay off timelines in the Employment Standards Act (ESA), as well as protection from constructive dismissal claims under the ESA for temporary reductions in hours or wages related to COVID-19.
Employees who were on the IDEL voluntarily, for example, those who needed to stop working in order to care for children while schools and daycare were closed, will remain on the IDEL until the circumstances leading to their leave change or until COVID-19 is no longer a designated disease under O.Reg 228/20.
So, what now? Employers will need to decide how they want to deal with employees who they may not be ready to recall by September 4, 2020. For some, a temporary lay off may be an option. A temporary lay off can last for 13 weeks or 35 weeks if benefits are continued. However, employers need to have the right to temporarily lay employees off in a valid written contract to do this legally.
Please check out our Guide for Employers during Covid-19 for more information or get in touch if you have questions about this September 4, 2020 deadline and the impact on your workforce.