A number of updates have been recently announced that have the potential to affect both employers and employees. Below, we provide an overview of the key highlights.
As of July 7, the re-opening of businesses in Toronto includes the mandatory wearing of masks which covers the nose, mouth and chin for members of the public and all employees in indoor public places. ‘Public spaces’ means any indoor space accessible by the public, including:
- Retail spaces
- Personal services spaces
- Churches, mosques and other houses of worship
- Community centres
- Real estate open houses and presentation centres
Owners and operators are required to create, communicate and enforce these rules and are subject to a fine of $1,000 per violation.
Travel to the USA
The travel restriction between Canada and the United States has been extended to August 21. This will continue to impact any non-essential travel across the border, and may be extended further.
The Federal wage subsidy program, which has been extended once already to late August, has been extended by the Prime Minister to December. The announcement was verbal and without further details, which will be forthcoming. The subsidy covers 75 percent of wages up to $847 weekly for employees of companies and non-profits that have seen a drop in revenue of at least 30 percent.
Stage 3 Reopenings
Most of the province will be soon allowed the less restrictive measures of stage 3 opening, as of July 17. The South Western Ontario region including the GTA is not included, but likely will follow shortly.
This stage will allow for indoor dining in restaurants, live performing arts shows and the reopening of movie theatres and playgrounds. There will be, however, serious health and safety measures in place, including physical distancing, enhanced cleaning protocols and physical barriers in places of close contact such as restaurants. Gatherings will also have strict capacity limits of 100 people for outdoor gatherings and 50 for indoor gatherings. With respect to events such as live performance, these numbers will apply to audience members only, and performers and venue staff will not be included in the count.
There is no sign of a complete and final opening. The Health Minister did state that the province will remain in stage 3 for the foreseeable future. There is no indication yet of new rules once the state of emergency expires, which is expected shortly.
Return to Work
Employees returning to work should be mindful of the requirements of the CERB, including the need to repay any funds received once they are back to active employment. Workers must be mindful of the right to receive only $1,000 of addtional monthly income while they are receiving CERB funds and that taxes will be payable on these sums.
Schools are planning to re-open in September, with ‘planning’ being the operative verb. This is subject to change depending on the statistics of the disease and may even vary by region through the province. This is important for many reasons, one of which is the ability of a person to attend work without the need to look after a dependant child. The protective status given to child care needs by the emergency and temporary amendments to the Employment Standards Act will very likely be no longer in effect once the state of emergency ends. Stay tuned for updates.
This being said, there remains the issue of human rights protections given to “family status” issues. Clearly there will be a need for a determined return to school plan soon. Even so, individual cases of family status needs will likely arise. It will be important to get advice on each context, be you employer or employee.
A new private members bill has passed first reading. Bill 191 is intended to apply to emergency workers. It creates a presumption in their favour that the disease is an occupational injury as long as the positive test was received on or after January 25, 2020, no matter when the workplace was deemed essential under the emergency legislation. This may be a first step in an overall view of the legislation, even though it now is seen through a narrow jurisdiction of emergency workers.
Get Advice and Know Your Rights
The ball keeps spinning on provincial and federal reforms designed to quell this crisis. It will not stop soon. Stay up to date on your rights and obligations, whether you are an employer or employee. The law is clearly an evolving instrument. It is important to stay up to date and aware of your obligations and rights, as the case may be.
We remain by your side to provide real time practical insight to the law and your position. 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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