COVID-19 Leave Laws in Canada

The governments of various jurisdictions in Canada have revised their labor laws in response to the coronavirus outbreak. This has been done to accommodate employees who cannot work because of the ongoing pandemic. This brief guide to COVID-19 leave laws in Canada gives an overview of the major changes in Canada’s Labor Code made by the federal government, and then goes on to highlight some significant changes made at the provincial level.

COVID-19 Leave
The federal government has added a new division titled ‘Leave Related to COVID-19’ under Part III – Standard Hours, Wages, Vacation and Holidays of the Canada Labor Code. If an employee is unable to work due to any COVID-19 related reason, he or she may be entitled to a 16-week-long leave of absence. The leave will be unpaid. During this time, the employee shall continue to receive any health and disability benefits, and they cannot be dismissed, suspended or fired if they wish to avail this leave. This policy is time-limited and will expire on October 1, 2020.

British Columbia COVID-19 Leave Laws
According to the modifications made on March 24, 2020 in the BC Employment Standards Act, workers can take an unpaid but job-protected leave if one or more of the following factors apply:

  • The worker has been diagnosed with and are being treated for COVID-19
  • The worker is self-quarantining as per the directives of the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • The worker has been instructed not to work (by their supervisor or any other senior personnel)
  • The worker needs to tend to children and/or dependent adults as a result of daycare centers, schools, and certain healthcare/rehab facilities being closed in an unprecedented manner
  • The worker is currently not in BC and cannot return due to travel restrictions

Employers can avail this leave on the aforementioned grounds for as long as required. However, this amendment is temporary and can be removed from the Act as per the government’s discretion.

Alberta COVID-19 Leave Laws
Alberta revised the Employment Standards Code to create a 14-day job-protected leave for workers who require some time off from work due to the pandemic. Employees in this Canadian province can take a two-week unpaid off if they are required to remain in self-isolation by a higher authority or need to tend to their child or a dependent adult who’s directed to self-quarantine. If required, employee can also file for an extension if the chief medical officer of Alberta allows them to do the same.

Ontario COVID-19 Leave Laws
The government of Ontario introduced the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 to make ease for employees during these testing times. According to the amendment, employees are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence if they are:

  • Under medical treatment or even investigation for COVID-19
  • Self-quarantining in observance of the directions issued by a physician
  • Looking after a family member who’s suffering from the disease or is affected by the shelter-at-home advisory
  • Outside Ontario and cannot reasonably return due to travel bans

These changes are a brief overview of the recent updates to the Canada Labor Code. For a more detailed explanation of the COVID-19 leave laws in Canada, please read the latest news release from the government of Canada

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