The Ontario and Canadian governments continue to make revisions to the law as the health crisis continues. There is no reason to believe that these amendments are complete, as the situation is ever-changing. The present shut down of non-essential businesses is set to expire April 7, 2020, but will most definitely be extended, and the list of essential businesses will soon be shortened. Stay tuned to this page for further updates on this crisis.
Limitation Periods on Hold
The Ontario government has announced a pause on the time clock for limitation periods. Generally, civil lawsuits must be started within 2 years from the date the claim was discovered (or reasonably ought to have been discovered). That time period is now on hold from Monday, March 16, 2020, for the duration of the emergency. This also applies to all litigation-related time-sensitive filings. The same delay applies to all tribunal time periods, subject to the discretion of the decision-maker.
Courts on Pause
All regular operations of the Superior Court are also on hold as of March 17, 2020, until further notice. There are exceptions for matters of immediate and significant financial repercussions.
Effective March 17, 2020, the Ontario Court of Appeal suspended all scheduled appeals for a period of three (3) weeks until April 3, 2020. During this period, urgent appeals will be heard based on either the written materials or remotely.
Emergency Relief for Workers
The Government of Canada has announced a new program for workers who do not qualify for Employment Insurance. This will allow for funding to persons who are freelancers, contract workers or other persons working, but not covered by EI. In order to be eligible for relief, there must be a work interruption due to a coronavirus-related issue such as a loss of work, the need to care for a sick relative, illness, or quarantine. The eligible payment is $2,000 a month for four months commencing in early April. The applicant must show earnings of at least $5,000 in the 2019 year or in the twelve-month period preceding the application in order to be granted emergency benefits.
Workers who have received EI sickness benefits that have expired after the 15 week period of eligibility may also apply.
The impact of the emergency benefits on pending lawsuits which overlap this time period remains to be determined. Usually, traditional work replacement EI sums do not offset such a claim but the “employee” must repay such sums from a successful claim.
The application link is to be ready in early April 2020. A telephone line will also be provided to take applications.
The deadline date for income tax return filing has also been extended to June 1, 2020, allowing those who owe taxes to delay the payment by two months.
More Emergency Relief to Avoid Layoffs
Canada offered encouragement today for management to return employees to its payroll. A company that has lost at least 30% of its revenue due to the pandemic will be eligible for wage subsidy retroactive to March 15, 2020. The sum offered is 75% of wages for those persons laid off, up to $58,700 of salary to a cap of $847 per week. Employers are expected, but not mandated, to provide the balance.
Federal Coronavirus Leave
Canada amended the federal Labour Code on March 25, 2020, to allow for 16 weeks of protected medical leave for quarantine or for sick leave due to COVID-19 infection. No medical certificate is required. The employer may request a written statement confirming the reason for the leave. This, like all Canada Labour Code leaves, will be job-protected.
Get Advice and Know Your Rights
The coronavirus and the upheaval of our day-to-day norms continue unabated. As the rules change in real time and this chaos continues, this is the clearly the moment to have timely legal and practical advice and understand your rights and your obligations whether you be employed or the employer.
For advice on this issue and all employment law matters, contact the offices of Toronto employment lawyers Grosman Gale Fletcher Hopkins LLP. We regularly advise workplace parties on a wide range of legal workplace issues. Contact us online or by phone at 416-364-9599 to schedule a consultation.
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