This is the fourth bulletin in a weekly series that provides a recap of important COVID-19 developments and their impact on employers as they navigate these challenging times. This recap covers the week of April 13, 2020 and is current as of April 20, 2020.
During the week of April 13, 2020, the Declaration of Emergency in Ontario was extended. Additionally, the federal and provincial governments announced changes to and new details on important measures that have been instituted to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to help employers and employees weather this storm, including the enhancement of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) and the Canada Emergency Business Account (“CEBA”); and funding for arts and sports industries, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and rural organizations.
Specific types of employers are also impacted by other important measures, including federally regulated pension plan sponsors, service agencies providing services for violence against women, Ontario municipal employers, and LHINs, long-term care, and retirement homes.
The key developments from this week, as well as their implications for employers, are set out below.
Extended Declaration of Emergency
On April 14, the Ontario government extended the Declaration of Emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (the “Act”) for a further 28 days until May 12, 2020. As a result of this extension, Ontario can continue to enforce emergency orders under the Act, including the closure of all non-essential workplaces, outdoor amenities, and restrictions on social gatherings of more than five people.
Whether operating an essential or non-essential workplace, employers should plan to continue to operate in accordance with the various emergency orders until at least May 12.
Extended Canada Emergency Response Benefit
On April 15, the federal government announced that it will extend the CERB to ensure that more workers benefit, retroactive to March 15, 2020.
As a result of the expansion, the following workers will be able to collect the CERB:
- those who are earning up to $1,000 per month;
- seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and cannot undertake their regular seasonal work because of COVID-19; and
- workers who have recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and cannot find work or return to work because of COVID-19.
Additionally, the federal government announced that it will work with the provinces and territories to cost-share a temporary top-up to the salaries of low-income essential workers (those who earn less than $2,500/month), including front-line health care workers, long-term care workers, food service workers, grocery workers, and others.
Federally Regulated Pension Plan Sponsors
Also on April 15, the federal government announced that it is immediately providing temporary relief to sponsors of federally regulated, defined benefit pension plans. The relief is in the form of a moratorium on solvency payment requirements for defined benefit plans through the rest of 2020 and is intended to help federally regulated employers maintain their financial resources and pension plans. Relief for 2021 funding obligations is being considered.
Emergency Order Impacting Service Agencies Providing Violence Against Women Residential and Crisis Line Services
Also on April 15 under the Act, the Ontario government ordered that service agencies that are funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and provide residential or crisis line services to support violence against women are authorized to take any reasonably necessary measures to respond to, prevent, and alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19. Such measures relate to redeployment and staffing priorities by allowing these service agencies to change worker locations, assignments, and schedules, among other powers. As with the earlier emergency orders impacting the healthcare and long-term care home industries, service agencies will have these powers even where they would be otherwise prohibited from such measures by a collective agreement.
Canada Emergency Business Account
On April 16, the federal government announced that it will extend the CEBA to ensure that more small and medium businesses can benefit from the loans of up to $40,000. This program was extended to businesses that had payrolls between $20,000 and $1.5 million last year and provides interest-free loans until December 31, 2022. If businesses pay off their loan by that date, up to 25% of their loan will be forgiven.
Emergency Order Impacting Municipal Redeployment
Also on April 16, the Ontario government issued a new emergency order under the Act that authorizes municipalities that have declared emergencies to take any reasonably necessary measures related to redeployment and staffing to respond to, prevent, and alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19. The order outlines critical services around which municipalities can identify staffing priorities and create redeployment plans. Municipalities have similar powers to redeploy staff working within these critical services as the service agencies impacted by the April 15 order described above, and similarly may exercise these powers despite any collective agreements that would otherwise prohibit such measures.
Funding for the Arts, Culture, and Sports Industries, Entrepreneurs, Small Businesses, and Rural Organizations
On April 17, the federal government announced new measures that are intended to aid businesses that may have “fallen through the cracks” and be ineligible for the CEWS and the CEBA.
The government will provide $962 million to Canada’s Regional Development Agencies and the Communities Futures Network, which will provide financial help to small businesses and businesses in rural areas.
Further, the government will provide Heritage Canada with $500 million to provide wage support to workers and help businesses in the arts, culture, and sports sectors.
Finally, the government announced that it will provide roughly $270 million to help entrepreneurs, innovators, and pre-revenue firms through Futurpreneur Canada and the Industrial Research Assistance Program.
Details of each measure have not yet been announced.
Emergency Order Impacting LHINs, Long-Term Care, and Retirement Homes
On April 17, Ontario issued a new emergency order under the Act intended to protect vulnerable Ontarians in retirement homes and long-term care homes.
- restricts retirement home employees from working in more than one retirement home, long-term care home, or other healthcare setting, beginning April 22;
- allows Local Health Integration Networks to direct home care service provider organizations to safely reassign frontline workers to areas where they are most needed, such as community care settings, long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing, and hospitals; and
- provides flexibility to municipalities and District Social Service Administration Boards to offer reassignments to certain workers to address local needs such as childcare, by-law enforcement, and public health services.
Employers who operate retirement homes, long-term care homes, or other healthcare facilities should immediately take steps to ensure all employees working in more than one retirement home, long-term care home, or healthcare facility cease doing so beginning April 22 and consider how reassignments may impact their employment-related legal exposures.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues. This information is not intended as legal advice.