On March 26, 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act (the “Act”) received royal assent to, among other things, amend the Labour Standards Act to create an unpaid job-protected leave of absence where an employee cannot perform the duties of his or her position because of one or more of the reasons prescribed in that Act related to a designated communicable disease.
The Act adds, on a permanent basis, a communicable disease emergency leave where the employer must provide for one or more of the following reasons:
- the employee is under individual medical investigation, supervision or treatment related to a designated communicable disease;
- the employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act related to a designated communicable disease;
- the employee is in isolation or quarantine or is subject to a control measure, including self-isolation, and the quarantine, isolation or control measure was implemented as a result of information or directions related to a designated communicable disease issued to the public by the Chief Medical Officer of Health or the government of the province whether through print, electronic, broadcast or other means;
- the employee is under a direction given by his or her employer in response to a concern of the employer that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to a designated communicable disease;
- the employee is providing care or support to a specified individual for a reason related to a designated communicable disease that concerns that individual, including a school or child care service closure; or
- the employee is directly affected by travel restrictions related to a designated communicable disease and, under the circumstances, cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province.
The reason providing care or support to an individual applies with respect to the following individuals:
- the employee’s spouse;
- a parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
- a child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
- a child who is under legal guardianship of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
- a brother, step-brother, sister or step-sister of the employee;
- a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse;
- a brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law of the employee;
- a son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee or the employee’s spouse; and
- any individual prescribed in the regulations as a family member for the purposes of this section.
- The leave does not apply to a class of employees exempted by the regulations.
An employer may require an employee to provide “evidence reasonable in the circumstances” to support the leave of absence. However, the employer cannot require a certificate from a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner.
An employee is entitled to take the leave starting on the date prescribed in the regulations and for as long as the employee is not performing the duties of his or her position because of a reason referred to above and the communicable disease is designated by the regulations for the purpose of this leave.
In addition to these changes, the Premier stated in a press conference that all government contracts with businesses will continue to be honoured for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. He further stated that all businesses and contractors with existing contracts with the government are required to continue to pay their employees who were employed at the time the public health emergency was declared in the province.