Governments across Canada continue to react to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic by changing the legal requirements that apply to employers. For its part, on October 2, 2020, the federal government enacted Bill C-4 (the COVID-19 Response Measures Act), which changes the COVID-19 leave available to employees under the Canada Labour Code and introduces new financial benefits for Canadians impacted by COVID-19. On the same day, the Ontario government introduced a new regulation that requires Ontario businesses and other organizations to ensure that masks are worn inside their premises (including in vehicles), subject to narrow exceptions.
Federal Government's Bill C-4
The federal government's Bill C-4 received royal assent on October 2, 2020. The legislation has two main effects:
1. Changes to COVID-19 Leave in Canada Labour Code
Bill C-4 amends the length and eligibility requirements of the Leave Related to COVID-19 entitlement in Part III of the Canada Labour Code. Specifically:
- Federal employees are now entitled to up to two weeks' leave (or another amount fixed by regulation) if they are unable to work because:
- They have or might have contracted COVID-19;
- They have underlying conditions that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19 in the opinion of a medical practitioner or certain other authorities; or,
- They are in isolation on the advice of their employer, a medical practitioner or certain other authorities.
- Federal employees are now entitled to up to 26 weeks' leave (or another amount fixed by regulation) if they are unable to work because:
- They must care for a child under 12 years old because the child: is unable to attend school or childcare facility due to a closure or other limitation; has contracted or might have contracted COVID-19; is in isolation; or is at risk of serious health complications if they contract COVID-19.
- They must care for another family member who requires supervised care but is unable to access that care for reasons similar to those that apply in the case of a child under 12 years old.
Bill C-4 makes a number of other technical and consequential amendments to the COVID-19 leave, including extending the period when an employee may take leave until September 25, 2021.
2. New Canada Recovery Benefits Act
Bill C-4 also established a new Canada Recovery Benefits Act, which introduced three new temporary recovery benefits for Canadian who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19:
- The Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household of workers unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19, or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19.
- The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSC) provides $500 per week for up to a maximum of two weeks for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they contracted COVID-19, self-isolated for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
- The Canada Recovery Benefit will pay eligible workers $500 per week for up to 26 weeks if they have stopped working and are not eligible for EI, or had their income reduced by at least 50% due to COVID-19.
The new benefits will be in place until September 2021. The Canada Revenue Agency began accepting applications for the CRCB and CRSC effective October 5, 2020, and will open applications for the Canada Recovery Benefit on October 12, 2020.
Ontario Regulation Requiring Masks
On the same day that Bill C-4 received royal assent, the Ontario government amended Regulation 364/20 to establish additional COVID-19-related requirements for Ontario businesses and other organizations. The Regulation now requires businesses and other organizations to ensure that any person - including but not limited to employees - wears a mask or face covering whenever the person is in an indoor area or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business or organization.
The Regulation sets out a number of specific exceptions to the mask requirement. Most notably for employers, individuals are not required to wear a mask if they:
- Have a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering;
- Are unable to put on or remove their mask or face covering without the assistance of another person;
- Are being accommodated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act;
- Are being reasonably accommodated under the Human Rights Code;
- Perform work for the business or organization, are in an area that is not accessible to members of the public, and are able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person while in the indoor area.
The amended Regulation expressly states that a person is not required to provide evidence to demonstrate that they fall within one of the exceptions.