On March 17, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan introduced amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act ensuring employees have access to job-protected leaves during a public health emergency. The Saskatchewan Employment (Public Health Emergencies) Amendment Act, 2020 (introduced as Bill 207) received royal assent in the Legislature on March 17, 2020, to make exceptions to several leaves and introduce a new unpaid public health emergency leave.
The amendments add the following exceptions to several leaves when a public health emergency is declared:
- removing the requirement of 13 consecutive weeks of employment with the employer prior to accessing the leaves listed below; and
- removing the provision requiring a doctor’s note or certificate.
The leaves these exceptions apply to are:
- bereavement leave;
- compassionate care leave;
- interpersonal violence and sexual violence leave;
- critically ill child care leave;
- critically ill adult care leave;
- crime-related child death or disappearance leave; and
- citizenship ceremony leave.
The amendments also introduce a new public health emergency leave that can be accessed when
- the World Health Organization has determined that there is a public health emergency and the province’s chief medical health officer has also issued an order that measures are to be taken to reduce the spread of a disease; or
- the province’s chief medical health officer has independently issued an order that measures be taken provincially to reduce the spread of a disease where it is believed there is sufficient risk of harm to citizens of the province.
The orders would also be made public to ensure everyone is aware of the direction.
Public health emergency means a public health emergency of international concern determined by the World Health Organization in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005) or any subsequent International Health Regulations.
An employee is entitled to a public health emergency leave for the period during which an order of the chief medical health officer issued is in force if any of the following have directed employees to isolate themselves to prevent or reduce the spread of the disease that is the subject of the order:
- the employer of the employees;
- a duly qualified medical practitioner;
- the Government of Saskatchewan;
- the chief medical health officer; or
- the employee is required to provide care and support to the employee’s child or family member who is affected by a direction or order of the Government of Saskatchewan or an order of the chief medical health officer.
Employees are entitled to be paid their regular wages and are entitled to their regular benefits during the period if:
- they are authorized by their employer to work at home during that period;
- they comply with the measures set out in the order of the chief medical health officer; and
- they comply with any additional requirements set out in an order.
The leave ends when the order expires or is cancelled.
The amendments to the Act come into force retroactive to March 6, 2020.