The Ford government says it will move to ensure employees are protected during the COVID-19 crisis.
In a statement, Premier Doug Ford said that he has asked for legislation to be drafted to give workers protected leave due to self-isolation or quarantine and to make it clear that employees do not need to obtain sick notes prior to taking time off for the coronavirus.
“Our government is protecting workers so they can focus on their own health, and the health of their families and communities, without fear of losing their jobs,” Ford said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath released her own statement welcoming the move and
“The Official Opposition has spoken to the government, and will be cooperating to draft and pass a bill to help people in Ontario weather the storm,” Horwath said.
While both sides called this “emergency legislation,” very few other details are known.
The NDP is going further than the government in calling for the legislation to ensure everyone is looked after.
“We want to ensure no one faces consequences for missing a rent or mortgage payment through no fault of their own,” Horwath said.
Ford’s office would only say that details of the legislation would be released in the coming days. With workers being asked to self-isolate or quarantine themselves now, it’s not clear whether the government would recall the legislature early to deal with this issue.
MPPs left Queen’s Park for a one week recess on Thursday with the next sitting day scheduled for March 23. The possibility exists, though, that the legislature could be shut down, just as the House of Commons was this past week.
A closure would scuttle the release of the provincial budget on March 25 and require an emergency sitting to pass this new legislation.
The Ford government has been under heavy criticism for claims that their previous changes to legislation require employees to show a doctor’s note for any sick days. However, the legislation simply removed a previous Liberal government policy that banned the ability of employers to ask for doctor’s notes.
That doesn’t mean that the current rules are clear for employees or employers and that has some experts worried about workers showing up sick to avoid repercussions.
Companies have come under swift criticism for their handling of employees during the crisis. Tim Hortons was facing a wave of anger over claims employees were being forced to provide sick notes if they took days off due to the virus.
“Our policy is clear. Team members should always stay home if they are sick,” Tim Hortons said in a statement while also emphasizing that doctor’s notes are not required.
Alberta has moved to invoke similar legislation that will see employees entitled to 14 days of job-protected leave and will waive the 90-day waiting period for new employees.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced changes to Employment Insurance last week to aid workers who are laid off as a result of the virus, including waiving a waiting period for EI eligibility.