This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues. This information is not intended as legal advice.
This is the ninth 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 May 18, 2020 and is current as of May 25, 2020. During the week of May 18, 2020, Ontario made important announcements regarding school closures, emergency orders, childcare centres, and COVID-19 testing, and the federal government announced the opening of applications for the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (“LEEFF”) the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (“CECRA”) These key developments are discussed below. Ontario Announcements Regarding School Closures, Emergency Orders & Child Care Centres On May 19, 2020, Ontario extended the emergency orders that it has made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act until May 29, 2020, and made important announcements regarding school closures and when childcare centres can reopen. Public schools in Ontario will not reopen this school year (though online learning will continue), but are planned to reopen in September for the next school year. Licensed childcare centres, early learning centres and private schools will not reopen during stage 1 of Ontario’s Framework for Reopening Our Province (for an overview of the framework, please read our recent article)¸ but will reopen during stage 2 of the framework. Given that stage 1 commenced on May 19, 2020, and that the assessment periods under the framework are 2-4 weeks each, this means that the earliest that licensed childcare centres, early learning centres, and private schools could reopen would be June 2, 2020. For information on what this means for your business, please read our recent article. The Federal Government Has Announced the Opening of Applications for the LEEFF and the CECRA On May 20, 2020, the federal government announced that applications for the LEEFF are now open, and that applications for the CECRA would open on May 25, 2020 (for an overview of the LEEFF, please read our recent article, and for information on the CECRA please read our other recent article). Large employers with an annual revenue of over $300 million may now apply for bridge loans to help them weather the COVID-19 pandemic at cdev.gc.ca. Similarly, certain landlords of small employers can now apply for the CECRA at cmhc.ca. This website also clarifies what information will need to be submitted for such applications. Accordingly, employers that have been impacted by COVID-19 and that pay $50,000 or less of commercial rent per month should contact their landlord to determine whether they are willing to apply for the CECRA and/or encourage them to do so. Ontario May Begin Testing Asymptomatic Workers in Certain Industries for COVID-19 On May 22, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford stated that he wants to begin testing all workers in certain industries for COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms. In particular, Premier Ford stated that he would like there to be testing of asymptomatic truckers, taxi drivers, certain workers in the automotive sector, and food processing workers across Ontario. The Premier indicated that more details regarding ramping up testing would be available this week. Additionally, on May 24, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will allow all Ontarians that feel that they need to get tested for COVID-19 to get tested, even if they are asymptomatic. Although the Ontario Ministry of Health has yet to revise its guideline, which provides that any Ontarian with at least one sign or symptom of COVID-19 should be considered for testing, Premier Ford promised that Ontarians without symptoms “will not be turned away” from getting tested. Premier Ford also stated on May 24, 2020 that Ontario will announce a new testing strategy this week targeting “various sectors and hotspots across the province”. As many employers know, Ontario is currently in Stage 1 of A Framework for Reopening our Province (the “Framework”) and one criterion that must be met for Ontario can progress to further stages is sufficient testing to detect new outbreaks of COVID-19 (for more information on the Framework, please read our recent article). However, Ontario has consistently not met its testing goals during the week of May 18, 2020 and, if Ontario continues failing to meet its testing goals, it may delay the reopening of the economy. We will continue to monitor Ontario’s approach to testing for COVID-19 and will provide updates on any changes that are relevant to employers to keep you In the Know. Ontario Bill 191: Private Member’s Bill Regarding WSIB benefits for COVID-19 On May 19, 2020, Bill 191, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Presumption Respecting COVID-19), 2020 (“Bill 191”), a Private Member’s bill, was introduced in the Ontario legislature. Employers should note that Bill 191 is still just proposed legislation and ultimately may not be passed into law. Notably, Private Member’s bills historically, are not very likely to pass and become law. However, if Bill 191 became law, where a worker for an essential business tests positive for COVID-19, it would be presumed that it is an occupational disease for which workers’ compensation is available through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (“WSIB”), unless proven otherwise. The presumption would apply to all positive tests on or after January 25, 2020. Currently, the WSIB is adjudicating COVID-19 claims on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of each claim. To date, 1,522 claims have been allowed, and 2,019 are pending, with the vast majority of claims in both categories occurring in nursing and residential care facilities, and in hospitals.