Ontario government plans bill to help workers affected by COVID-19 pandemic
Legislation would remove need for medical notes
By The Canadian Press
By John Chidley-Hill
TORONTO — Premier Doug Ford’s office says the government is drafting legislation that would remove employers’ ability to require sick notes for people in self-isolation or quarantine.
A spokeswoman for Ford said the bill would include a number of measures aimed at helping workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Under the legislation, employers would have to ensure protected leave for workers who have to take unpaid leave to be in self-isolation or quarantine.
“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 in a statement Sunday.
Shortly after coming to office in 2018, Ford’s government repealed labour legislation introduced by the previous government that gave workers two paid sick days a year and banned the practice of requiring sick notes.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who has been calling for such measures to be reinstated, said the official opposition has been in touch with the government and is helping to draft and pass the emergency legislation to help Ontarians cope with the economic impact of COVID-19.
“The NDP will be working hard to ensure the emergency legislation helps people take time off work without losing a paycheque,” said Horwath in a statement. “We want to ensure no one faces consequences for missing a rent or mortgage payment through no fault of their own.
“We will work to ensure there is a plan to support vulnerable people and vital services like shelters, and ensure no one is left behind when it comes to having the groceries and medications they need — including seniors and those on (Ontario Works) and (Ontario Disability Support Program).”
Opposition wants paid leave
Steven Del Duca, the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, said his party would also support the bill but not without scrutiny.
“We are pleased the government is taking a collaborative approach and we will work with them at every opportunity to combat COVID-19,” said Del Duca. “We will be studying the legislation closely and are hopeful the government will introduce paid leave along with a number of other measures because workers should not have to choose between paying their bills and self-isolation.”
The Ontario legislature had been set to take a week off for March break. As public gatherings were limited to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, all parties passed a motion that would allow for the suspension of the legislature after that week if need be.
The premier’s office did not immediately say when the bill would come before the legislature or if an emergency session would be called.
The Tories’ move comes amid widespread criticism directed at Tim Hortons, after the news agency PressProgress reported that some locations were requiring staff to get doctors’ notes in order to call in sick during the pandemic.
The coffee-and-doughnuts chain responded to the reports on Twitter Saturday, saying that misinformation had been circulating and the company is working with franchisees to ensure they’re following public health officials’ advice.
The number of cases continued to climb across Canada on Sunday, with Ontario reporting 39 new cases, bringing the provincial tally past 140.