Many restaurants have closed in response to COVID-19. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Many restaurants have closed in response to COVID-19. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Taking time off work due to COVID-19 now falls under medical leave

New measures come after many businesses layoff staff due to impact of coronavirus

Canadians who need to take a leave from work for reasons related to COVID-19 will now be covered under federal medical leave supports.

The change to the Canada Labour Code is part of the federal government’s sweeping measures in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus. As of Thursday, March 26, more than 2,800 people in the country have tested positive for the disease.

The amendments to the labour code include up to 16 weeks of leave if related to the disease. Any necessary quarantine now also falls under the medical leave regime.

“If you are in the workplace and have COVID-19, under the Canada Labour Code, this would constitute a workplace hazard. As such, you have a duty to report this hazard to management,” reads the federal government’s website.

“Except in very limited circumstances, such as if a manager questions whether an employee is truly sick, a doctor’s certificate should not be required.”

Meanwhile, leave requests for other reasons related to the coronavirus – such as helping a family member who has tested positive for the disease or having to stay home due to daycare or school closures – are up to management approval.

The federal government suggests that anyone who needs to take this kind of leave should first attempt to make alternative care arrangements or try to work from home. If those aren’t possible, then “other leave with pay,” also known as labour code 699, can be granted.

READ MORE: How organizations, businesses can go digital during the COVID-19 pandemic

The changes come as health officials across the country continue to urge employers of non-essential services to allow their employees to work from home or take other measures to limit the potential for spread of COVID-19, including limiting staff within a single shift.

Still, this advice isn’t being met with open arms by all employers. In Edmonton, a Tim Hortons was under fire this week after an internal note to its staff threatened that they would be fired if they didn’t show up for work.

“For team members who call in sick, I have scheduled for a reason. Therefore, I expect you to show up,” reads the note, which was posted to online forum Reddit.

Other large companies have responded to the pandemic with mass-layoffs. On Wednesday, March 26, Steve Nash Gym laid off roughly 2,000 employees. A number of airlines have also announced widespread layoffs due to travel restrictions curtailing demand.

The restaurant industry, which typically operates on a minimal margin of revenue, has also been hard hit by social contact measures imposed by government officials, forcing some to shutter its doors until further notice or operate on minimal staff.

Those who have been laid off from their jobs have access to $2,000 monthly, for four months, from the federal government.

READ MORE: Trudeau unveils new $2,000 per month benefit to streamline COVID-19 aid


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