On April 14, 2020, the Manitoba government introduced a job-protected leave to The Employment Standards Code for employees who are unable to work due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Qualifying period and entitlements
The public health emergency leave gives employees time away from work for reasons related to a public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic, when:
- the employee is in quarantine, isolation or self-isolation in order to follow guidance or directives issued by specific public health authorities for reasons related to COVID-19;
- the employee is under medical examination, supervision or treatment related to COVID-19;
- the employee must comply with or is subject to an order made under The Emergency Measures Act or The Public Health Act as a result of COVID-19;
- the employee is providing care, support or assistance to a family member as a result of COVID-19, including but not limited to school and daycare closures;
- the employer directs the employee not to work because the employer is concerned about the employee’s exposure to others;
- the employee is directly affected by travel restrictions and cannot reasonably be expected to travel to their workplace.
All employees are eligible to take leave for COVID-19 related circumstances if they meet any of the specific requirements listed above. Employees can take as much time as needed for eligible circumstances listed above.
There is no minimum length of time that employees must be employed by an employer before they can take the COVID-19 related leave.
Employers are not required to pay wages to employees while on public health emergency leave. Employers can give greater benefits than those provided for in the legislation.
Beginning and ending the leave
Entitlement to the public health emergency leave begins March 1, 2020.
The leave ends when none of the eligible purposes apply to the employee.
Notice and justification for the leave
Employees must notify the employer that they need to take a leave of absence. Employees must give their employer as much notice as is reasonable in the circumstances.
The employer will need enough detail to show the time off work meets the requirements of the leave. However, employers cannot request a note from a doctor, nurse or other health professional. Reasonable verification will be different from case to case. The intent is to confirm the employee is taking the leave to deal with a specified purpose related to the public health crisis.
Employers cannot disclose information related to a leave except to other persons in the workplace who need to know in order to carry out their duties.
Justification for other leaves
During the COVID-19 public health crisis, employers are not permitted to request a physician’s certificate or medical certificate to verify an employee’s eligibility for this leave or any other protected leave available under The Employment Standards Code.
Benefits and seniority during the leave
Employment is considered continuous during a legislated leave of absence from work. This means an employee is still employed, though not earning wages for the period of the leave. When employees return from the leave, they are still entitled to any pension and other benefits they had before the leave. As well, their years of service include the time away on the leave.
Reinstatement and job protection
Employees must be allowed to return to their job, or a comparable job with the same or greater benefits and pay, when they return from leave. Employers may not discriminate or attempt to punish employees for taking a leave.
While employers are prohibited from terminating or disciplining an employee specifically because they take a leave of absence, nothing would prevent them from terminating or laying off employees for other business reasons-even if those reasons are also related to COVID-19, such as a mandatory closure order or drop in revenue.