Updated Ontario COVID-19 Restrictions
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The Government of Ontario has again released an update on its COVID-19 public health measures and advice. As many of our readers know, given the recent changes in the public health situation, new measures have been implemented and are in effect from January 5 until January 27, 2022. Read on to find out how these new rules, in addition to the temporary closure of schools and mandatory remote learning until January 17, 2022, will impact employers.
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Workplace Law Trends for 2022
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Welcome to 2020 Two! It’s hard to believe we’ve been living through a pandemic for nearly 2 years. Workplaces are beyond worn out, stress leaves and harassment complaints continue to increase, parents are juggling remote learning and limited activities for kids once again, and many workplaces struggle to find people to fill the roles. 

Yes, it’s all a bit of a mess, but out of crisis emerge new ways to approach issues and novel solutions to traditional problems. Here are our predictions for workplace law trends and changes in 2022.

#1 – Push for Hybrid and Remote Working

Studies over the last year are showing a deep disconnect between senior bosses and employees about preferred workplaces. Increasingly, employees want – and now expect – at least some remote work option, whereas senior levels of management are more likely to continue to see in-person work better for productivity, mentoring and focus.
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Office holiday party and Covid-19 considerations
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Likely you’ve noticed that the holiday season is upon us! Often around this time of year, we’ve written a blog post about holiday office parties. Usually, these have revolved around topics like social host liability, drinking and sexual harassment. This year, many workplaces are eager to get the gang back together in person and have the additional consideration of COVID-19! What to do?!

Where to Party?

An easy option, which will allow employers to avoid having to reinvent the wheel, will be to have the holiday party at a restaurant. Restaurants know the local public health rules and you won’t have to ruin the night for your HR person by requiring them to be the mask police all night. Proof of vaccination is required to dine indoors in most jurisdictions and the restaurant will have a set-up for contract tracing and vaccination checks. 
Continue Reading Time to Party IRL?

Arbitration Decisions on Mandatory Vaccination Policies
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This month has seen arbitral treatment of two mandatory vaccination policies in the context of unionized workplaces. In a grievance brought by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Canada, Local 333 against employer Paragon Protection Ltd., the arbitrator found that the employer’s vaccination policy was reasonable. In a grievance brought by the Power Workers’ Union (the “PWU”) against employer Electrical Safety Authority, the arbitrator found that it was not.

Paragon Protection’s Vaccination Policy

Paragon Protection Ltd. provides security services and employs 4,400 unionized security guards to hundreds of client sites across Ontario. Many of these client sites had vaccination requirements. Paragon gave its employees approximately two months notice that they would be requiring them to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Employees would report their vaccination status by way of a declaration. The policy allowed exemptions for human rights reasons on the basis of creed/religion and health. 
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Recent Changes to the Federal Government’s Covid-19 Benefits Schemes
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As of Saturday, October 23, 2021, a suite of federal benefits formerly slated for both individuals and small businesses was set to expire following several extension periods. In partial response, the federal government has earmarked $7.4 billion for new programs intended to maintain some level of support for businesses and individuals throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

What Is Set To Expire?

On October 23, 2021, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) both expired after their initial implementation in 2020. The Budget Implementation Act would allow the government to extend these programs to November 30, 2021, however, anything beyond this time frame would require the introduction of new legislation. Under the CERS, businesses have a monthly cap of $75,000 on eligible expenses that can be claimed per business location, and $300,000 in total for all locations. In our discussion below, there is potential for an increase in this monthly cap. 
Continue Reading Recent Changes to the Federal Government’s Covid-19 Benefits Schemes

Job Consequences for Employees Refusing Mandatory Vaccination
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We are getting lots of questions from employers and employees about vaccination. We addressed many of these questions a few weeks ago in our post Unvaccinated Employees and Mandatory Vaccination. Now that a little bit of time has passed, we are getting more questions about the possible job consequences for employees who are unvaccinated. 

Why is the Employee not Vaccinated?

Before considering what job consequences might be appropriate, it’s crucial for employers to understand the employee’s reasons for being unvaccinated. In rare circumstances, an employee may be entitled to a legitimate exemption from a mandatory vaccination policy. Employees who have legitimate exemptions based on medical or religious grounds will be entitled to protection from discrimination by human rights legislation. While it still may not be appropriate to allow an unvaccinated employee with a legitimate reason for an exemption from attending in person at the office, they will be entitled to accommodation. The range of accommodations is wide, from placing an employee on an unpaid leave of absence to allowing them to continue their work remotely. For more information on legitimate reasons for exemptions and accommodation, see our past post
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IDEL COVID-19 Period Extended to January 1, 2022
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The COVID-19 period for Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) has once again been extended, this time to January 1, 2022. The COVID-19 period for this leave which, at its inauguration was set to end on September 4, 2020, has been extended multiple times – first to January 2, 2021, then to July 3, 2021, then again to September 25, 2021, and now into the new year. 

To Whom Does this Leave Apply?

This IDEL applies to employees who were laid off or had their hours temporarily reduced from March 1, 2020 to January 1, 2022. Employees on this deemed IDEL are exempted, under a provincial regulation that amended certain segments of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), from being deemed to have been terminated. These employees are not owed ESA notice or severance pay. 
Continue Reading IDEL COVID-19 Period Extended to January 1, 2022