Ontario and Alberta are making changes to provincial employment legislation to protect workers who are affected by the coronavirus.

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act that would provide job-protected leave to employees who are in isolation or quarantine, as well as to those who have to take time off work to care for children due to school and daycare closures.

If passed, the amendments would also provide job protection to employees who aren’t able to work if they’re under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for the coronavirus; are following an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act;  following the information or direction of public health; or are directed by their employer not to work. In addition, employees won’t be required to provide a medical note in order to take leave.

Read: Employers moving to remote work to help ‘flatten the coronavirus curve’

The proposed measures will be retroactive to Jan. 25, 2020, when Ontario confirmed its first case of the coronavirus.

“Mothers and fathers who need to care for children or dependants shouldn’t have to worry about losing their job,” said McNaughton in a press release. “The same goes for people who receive medical or public health advice and are required to take precautions as a result. They shouldn’t have to worry about losing their job. In this time of uncertainty, we need to support employees who must isolate or quarantine themselves or who need to care for a loved one.”

The province is currently reviewing access and eligibility to the emergency assistance available through the Ontario Works program, which could provide funds to individuals who are impacted by the coronavirus and need help to cover their basic living expenses.

In Alberta, the provincial government announced it’s making changes to its Employment Standards Code to provide 14 days of job-protected leave to employees who are required to self-isolate or are caring for a loved one who has been infected. Employees won’t be required to present a medical note or to have worked for an employer for 90 days to qualify.

Read: Considerations around employee safety, privacy, leave during the coronavirus crisis

Details of how the changes will be implemented are forthcoming, said the government in a press release. It also acknowledged that employers could face pressure from the changes.

“No one should have to choose between work and taking care of their health,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in the release. “We are all in this together to ensure workplaces are safe and the spread of COVID-19 is mitigated.”

In British Columbia, Premier John Horgan promised a provincial relief plan in the coming days to help companies and workers deal with COVID-19.

He said financial security, the education system and co-operation among governments are three top concerns for people as the pandemic response unfolds. “It’s a go big or go home environment. It seems to me this is a crisis situation and we need an appropriate response.”

The province is waiting for the final details of the federal government’s plan, which is expected on Wednesday, before it releases its approach. Horgan said he expects federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau to announce changes to help businesses and workers Wednesday.

Read: Feds loosening restrictions on EI as number of coronavirus cases rise

The B.C. premier said there will be financial support for businesses and changes to the Employment Standards Act to prevent employees from being laid off if they’re required to stay at home to self-isolate. “We want to make sure that no one loses their job by doing the right thing,” said Horgan. “Today we are talking about the plan and the path forward. The details of that really have to wait until we see what the federal government has done so that we can complement that work.”

Horgan also pressed the federal government to ensure it changes employment insurance regulations to help employees, especially self-employed and people working in the service industry. “We want to make sure they are expanding those provisions to capture those individuals, but also recognize that there needs to be closer to full wages rather than half wages or three-quarters wages depending on what the circumstances are,” he said. “We want flexibility from the federal government on these questions.”

Horgan also said the government is consulting with the Opposition Liberals and the Green party about ways to introduce and debate employment protection legislation without requiring a full slate in legislature. He said the legislature could work on a quorum system as opposed to having all 85 members in the building.

Read: A refresher on Canada’s leave policies as coronavirus escalates

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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