The Ontario Government announced that all publicly funded schools in Ontario will be closed for two weeks after March break as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It remains to be seen what, if any, further business or operational closures may be mandated. Employers can expect their employees to be impacted by the school closures and should prepare for reduced staff availability until at least 5 April 2020.
Employees may be entitled to applicable leaves of absence under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, including 3 days of unpaid Family Responsibility Leave and 3 days of unpaid Sick Leave. Employees may also be entitled to additional time off work based on their individual employment contract, workplace policies, or applicable collective agreement. Even if no statutory or contractual leave is available to an employee, employers may have to consider accommodating absences during any period of school closure under the Human Rights Code on the basis of family status, as parents may have limited options for alternative sources of childcare given the circumstances.
Employers should also consider the flexible application of workplace policies including allowing employees to use vacation time during periods of school closure in order to avoid income loss. Alternatively, employers may consider instituting temporary “work-from-home” measures, if appropriate. Employers are encouraged to take a proactive approach in order to alleviate scheduling concerns before school closures commence.
We would like to thank Derek Klatt for contributing this article.
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