New Employment Standards Act Protections for Individuals Impacted by COVID-19

The Employment Standards Act was amended to provide job protection to persons who are ill, need to self-isolate, need to care for their child or other dependent, or whose employer is concerned that the employee may expose others to risk as a result of the COVID-19.  An employer must not request, and an employee is not required to provide, a medical note substantiating the absence.

The Employment Standards Act was also amended to provide employees with up to three days of annual unpaid leave for personal illness or injury after 90 days of employment.

The amendments followed a three-hour emergency session at the legislature and are retroactive to January 27, 2020.

Both amendments are “leaves” under the Employment Standards Act. Employees who take such leaves are provided with the same protections as employees who avail themselves of other statutory leaves, such as pregnancy and parental leaves. An employer must place an employee in the position the employee held before taking leave or in a comparable position upon an employee’s return to work. Given this change, employers will want to exercise caution when terminating a person’s employment who has recently been on leave as a result of COVID-19.

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