Possible Changes to Employment Law on the Horizon in Ontario

On October 25, 2021, Ontario’s government introduced the Working for Workers Act, 2021 (the Act), which, if passed, would amend certain aspects of the Employment Standards Act, 2020 and other laws impacting employment practices in the province.

“Disconnecting From Work”

The Act requires employers with 25 or more employees to have a written policy regarding employees’ “disconnecting from work.” The Act defines “disconnecting from work” to mean “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work.” In a news release related to the Act, the Ontario government stated that such policies might include, “for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working.” The government further stated that the measure is intended to “prioritize[e] workers’ mental health and family time.”

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Ontario Again Extends Temporary Relief from the ESA’s Termination and Severance Provisions

As we previously highlighted, on May 29, 2020, the Province of Ontario enacted Ontario Regulation 228/20, Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL Regulation), under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). The IDEL Regulation retroactively reclassified any temporary layoff that occurred during the COVID-19 Period as an infectious disease emergency leave (IDEL). On June 4, 2021, the Ontario government amended the IDEL Regulation to define the “COVID-19 Period” as the period between March 1, 2020, and September 25, 2021. As a result of this extension, nonunion employees with reduced or eliminated work hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic were considered not to be on layoff under the ESA, but instead continue on deemed IDEL.

Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers and continues to affect employers and employees, especially in light of the delta variant, on September 16, 2021, the Ontario government extended the temporary relief measures from the termination and severance provisions of the ESA until January 1, 2022. As such, the temporary measures found in the IDEL Regulation have been amended to define the “COVID-19 Period” as the period beginning on March 1, 2020 and ending on January 1, 2022.

We summarized the Ontario temporary relief measures in our prior blog post and have highlighted and updated our analysis here.

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