On the Radar from CLEO
CLEO On The Radar
August 2022
Changes to sick leave and layoff rules related to COVID-19
In July, the Ontario government made big changes to the leave program created because of COVID-19.
Ontario's Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) was created to support both employers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic by:
  • giving paid and unpaid sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19, and
  • allowing employers to place employees on an unpaid, lengthy layoff if there was not enough work available because of COVID-19.
Paid sick leave
The government recently extended the paid sick leave portion of the IDEL to March 31, 2023. It was set to end on July 31.
The IDEL gives employees unlimited unpaid days and 3 paid sick days if they have to miss work because:
  • they're getting a COVID-19 vaccine or recovering from side effects caused by the vaccine
  • they have COVID-19
  • they have to self-isolate or quarantine because they might have COVID-19
Employees can also take the sick days to care for a family member if one of the reasons above applies to them.
And they can take the sick days if their employer orders them to stay home because they might spread COVID-19 at work.
The most an employee can get paid while on IDEL is $200 a day.
If an employer has not paid an employee for these sick days, it's a good idea for them to get legal help as soon as they can.
Number of paid sick days not increased
While the program has been extended, the government has not increased the number of days an employee can get the paid leave.
Employees get only 3 days from April 19, 2021, to March 31, 2023. The number of days does not reset each calendar year.
This means, for example, that an employee will have no remaining days of paid leave available if they used:
  • 2 days to care for a sick relative in 2021, and
  • one day to get a booster shot in 2022.
But they'll be able to take unpaid days.
Temporary layoffs
Regular temporary layoff rules were put on hold between March 1, 2020, and July 30, 2022, because of COVID-19. But beginning July 31, the regular rules apply again.
Back to regular temporary layoff rules
The Employment Standards Act (ESA) says that an employer can temporarily lay off employees for up to 13 weeks. In some cases, they can do so for up to 34 weeks, for example, if they continue to pay benefits.
If an employer does not bring the employee back to work by the end of the 13 weeks, the employee can consider themselves fired. This is called constructive dismissal.
The employee then has the option of either filing a claim through:
Sometimes the employee can also claim severance pay through the Ministry of Labour, if they work for a large company. As of July 31, these rules will apply even if an employer lays off an employee because of COVID-19.
The rules during COVID-19
Because of COVID-19, the government of Ontario changed the rules for temporary layoffs.
These rules said that employers could temporarily cut an employee's hours and pay or give them no work, without it being counted as a temporary layoff. But this rule applied only:
  • from March 1, 2020, to July 30, 2022, and
  • if the employer made these changes because of COVID-19.
During this time employees were not laid off. They were on unpaid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL).
While on IDEL, the employer did not have to pay the employee or continue their benefits. With some exceptions, the employee also could not make a claim through the Ministry of Labour for termination pay or severance pay based on how long they had been on this leave.
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