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Extended protections under the ESA keep layoffs on “pause”

Written by on September 24, 2020 in Covid-19 Centre, Employment Law Blog, Employment Law Issues

A couple of weeks ago, we thought employers would be scrambling to recall their employees back to work as the emergency protections introduced in June through Ontario Regulation 228/20 were set to expire in early September.

Right in the nick of time, however, the Ontario government announced that it was extending these protections until January 2, 2021.

This should come as a great relief for employers and employees alike, as COVID-19 seems to be entering a second wave.

As we’ve discussed, Ontario Regulation 228/20 made a number of changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000, mostly notably freezing the ordinary thirteen-week layoff period, which took the financial pressure of notice payments off of employers while allowing employees to access emergency funding like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

These changes were set to last for the duration of the “COVID-19 Period”, which was originally defined as the period from March 1, 2020 until six weeks after Ontario’s emergency order was lifted. This meant that the changes would have expired on September 4, 2020.

However, the government has redefined the “COVID-19 Period”, extending it through to January 2021.

Now, employers can continue to keep their employees on temporary layoff without triggering a termination, and employees’ entitlements under the ESA along with it. Meanwhile, employees can continue to access emergency funds.

While these changes to the ESA provide a welcome reprieve for employers, employees still have rights under common law. We urge employers to communicate with their employees about layoffs or reductions in work hours, and to stay apprised of COVID-19 related developments affecting workplaces.

Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. If you have any questions on COVID-19 and your workplace or are planning on bringing employees back to work, please contact us or call us at 905-477-7011.

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Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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