The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in sudden and widespread changes to all aspects of our daily lives; from the closure of businesses and schools to the implementation of social distancing procedures in all public environments. One of the sudden and widespread changes we are seeing and will continue to see over the coming weeks is changes to the workplace.

On March 25, 2020, Bill C-13, the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, received Royal Assent. Among the emergency supports being implemented under the Act are changes to the Canada Labour Code (CLC) that will assist federal employees affected by the current pandemic. This blog will summarize some of the key changes made to the CLC under Bill C-13.

  • Health Certificate Not Required for Certain Leaves: the new section 168.1 (1) stipulates that an employee may exercise their entitlement to a Compassionate Care Leave, a Leave related to Critical Illness, or Medical Leave even if a certificate is not issued by a health care practitioner.
  • Interruption of vacation: section 187.1(1) has been replaced by new language which allows an employee to interrupt a vacation granted to them in order to permit them to take a leave of absence under Division VII, Division VIII, or section 247.5 of the CLC or for a reason referred to in section 239 covering Medical Leave.
  • Postponement of vacation: an employee may postpone their vacation until after the day on which a leave of absence taken under Division VII, Division VIII, or section 247.5 of the CLC ends. The vacation may also be postponed for a reason referred to in section 239 of the CLC.
  • Changes to Parental Leave: an employee on Parental Leave may have the leave extended by the number of weeks during which the employee is on Compassionate Care Leave, Leave Related to Critical Illness, Leave Related to Death or Disappearance, Leave for Court or Jury Duty, Medical Leave under section 239, or Leave of Absence for Members of the Reserve Force subject to exceptions.
    • An employee may also interrupt their Parental Leave so the employee may take Compassionate Care Leave, Leave Related to Critical Illness, Leave Related to Death or Disappearance, Leave for Court or Jury Duty, Medical Leave under section 239, or Leave of Absence for Members of the Reserve Force subject to exceptions.
    • An employee on Parental Leave who interrupts their leave to go on Medical Leave will be entitled to be reinstated in the position that the employee occupied when the Parental Leave commenced in accordance with section 209.1 of the CLC.
  • Changes to Medical Leave: Medical Leave under the CLC has been amended to allow every employee a medical leave of absence from employment of up to 16 weeks as a result of quarantine.

Leave Related to COVID-19

The changes to the CLC under Bill C-13 have also instituted a new section entitled “Leave Related to COVID-19.” This new leave grants every employee a leave of absence from employment of up to 16 weeks if the employee is unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to the coronavirus disease 2019. The key points of the new leave are as follows:

  • An employee intending to take this leave must, as soon as possible, give written notice to their employer of the reasons for the leave and the length of leave they intend to take. If there are any changes to the length of the leave of absence the employee intends to take, the employee must give written notice to the employer as soon as possible.
  • The employer may require that the employee provide a written declaration in support of the reasons for the leave of absence taken and of any change in the length of that leave.
  • The employee is entitled, on written request, to be notified in writing of every employment, promotion, or training opportunity that arises during the period the employee is on the leave of absence and for which the employee is qualified.
  • The employer is prohibited from dismissing, suspending, laying off, demoting or disciplining an employee because the employee has taken or intends to take a leave of absence under this section. In addition, the employer may not take an intention to take a leave of absence under this section into account in any decision to promote or train the employee. However, the employer may assign an employee to a different position, with different terms and conditions of employment if the employee can no longer perform the work he or she performed prior to the absence.
  • The pension, health, and disability benefits and the seniority of an employee absent from work due to a leave of absence under this section accumulate during the entire period of the leave.
  • If contributions are required from an employee in order for the employee to be entitled to a benefit, the employee is responsible to pay those contributions within a reasonable time for the period of a leave of absence under this section unless the employee notifies the employer of his/her intention to discontinue contributions during the leave.
  • An employer who pays contributions in respect of an employee benefit must continue to pay those contributions during an employee’s leave of absence under this section in at least the same proportion as if the employee were not absent, unless the employee does not pay the employee’s contributions, if any.

The current pace of the COVID-19 pandemic is introducing rapid legislative changes across the country. Employers’ policies will need to be updated to account for the legislative accommodations the federal government is making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions or require any guidance in regards to Bill C-13, please contact our office.