Amendments to the Canada Labour Code in Response to COVID-19

On March 25, 2020, the federal government passed Bill C-13, an Act Respecting Certain Measures in Response to COVID-19. In addition to the introduction of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act (which we reviewed here), the legislation made a number of substantive amendments to the Canada Labour Code (the “Code”) arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federally regulated employers should be aware of the following changes to the Code:

  1. New COVID-19 Leave – As expected, Bill C-13 introduced a new leave related to COVID-19. An employee is entitled to a leave of absence for up to 16 weeks if the employee is unable to work or absent for work for reasons related to COVID-19. The scope of this leave is intentionally very broad and the employee must only provide a written description of the reasons for the leave. Amongst other things, it would be available as result of a mandated quarantine, in order to follow recommendations regarding self-isolation and to care for children who are not attending school or daycare or to care for someone who is sick with COVID-19.

The employee’s seniority, pension, health and disability benefits continue during the leave (with the employer and employee paying their respective share). If an employee requests, the employer must keep the employee informed in writing of every employment, promotion or training opportunity that arises

This leave is currently expected to remain in place until October 1, 2020.

  1. Medical Leave for Quarantine – Bill C-13 also introduces a new 16-week medical leave of absence that will become available on October 1, 2020 for persons who have been quarantined. This leave is not limited to a quarantine as a result of COVID-19. As with the COVID-19 leave, the employee’s seniority and benefits continue during the leave (with the employer and employee paying their respective share of the premiums) .
  2. Medical Certificates Not Required – Until September 30, 2020, employees do not need to substantiate their compassionate care leave, critical illness leave or medical leave with a medical certificate. Rather, if an employee exercises his or her right to one of those leaves, the employee “shall be granted” the leave, even if health care practitioner does not issue a certificate..

For more information on this article, please contact Ilan Burkes, Sari Wiens, Nicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

Note to our Readers: Information regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. We are working to bring you up-to-date articles as the legal issues develop and to keep our previous posts updated. Given that the legal issues related to COVID-19 are constantly changing, if you are looking for legal advice or are dealing with an issue in relation to COVID-19, please contact your Harris lawyer or a member of our COVID-19 response team: Sari Wiens, Ilan BurkesNicole Toye or Jessica Fairbairn.

To read our most recent articles and other updates on COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Updates page.