The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the economy and the legal landscape on an hourly basis. Businesses are being forced to respond just as quickly. Many decisions made today will affect a business’s survival tomorrow. We understand that staying up to date and navigating your business’s legal obligations is not just more important than ever before, but also more difficult. We are committed to helping you work through these unprecedented times.
As of today, Brauti Thorning LLP will share updates with you on a periodic basis about the legal landscape in Canada and Ontario. Our bulletin will provide you with the information needed to make the best decisions now, both to protect your business’s interests throughout the pandemic and to prepare you for the months to come.
We will also be providing articles on a periodic basis that dive more deeply into the legal issues arising from COVID-19. These articles will answer questions to assist you when making business decisions and the consequences of making those decisions. Our first article considers layoffs and how to prepare yourself to litigate against potential claims of constructive dismissal. It can be accessed here.
One proactive measure that all businesses should do is open an active dialogue with employees about the “new normal” at work and about what the pandemic may mean for your business. Many employees are as fearful of losing their jobs as businesses are of shutting down during these uncertain times. If your industry is still permitted to be open, you should consider talking to your employees about alternative work arrangements or payment structures to remain operational, including top ups to Employment Insurance, work sharing arrangements, temporary wage or hour reductions, and/or revised methods of sick day or vacation day use and accrual. Even if your business has been ordered to close, there is value to maintaining an open dialogue with employees who will want to return to work as soon as possible.
We also recommend that all business owners start reviewing their insurance policies. Policies may provide coverage for impending losses that will allow you to continue operations, or at least allow you to implement creative wage arrangements to defer layoffs and other potential liabilities. Such polices may include coverage for interruptions, cancellations or third-party liability. Policies may also cover legal fees for defending wrongful dismissal actions.
We are here to help. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions as we work together to get through these unprecedented times.
This publication is intended only to provide general information. It should not be relied on as legal advice. For specific legal advice, please contact: Leslie Dizgun, Paul Schwartzman, or Alyssa Jagt.
The Government of Ontario announced the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces to slow the spread of COVID-19 by no later than 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Essential businesses that are permitted to remain open include grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants operating with take-away and food delivery. The Government has published a list of “essential workplaces” permitted to remain open here.
The City of Toronto declared a state of emergency in response to the spread of COVID-19. The declaration grants Mayor John Tory the ability to act without approval of the city council for 30 days.
The Ontario Legislature passed Bill 186, Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020. The Bill amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and provides a new unpaid, job-protected emergency leave related to infectious disease emergencies”. Employers may require evidence that is “reasonable in the circumstances” at times that are also “reasonable in the circumstances.” In any case however, employers are prohibited from requiring medical notes to prove eligibility for the new leave. The leave applies to any employee who is not performing their duties because they are:
The Canadian government announced several initiatives as part of its response to COVID-19 that will help businesses:
The Business Development Bank of Canada announced the following measures to help Canadian businesses:
The Government of Ontario declared an emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Penalties for failing to abide by orders made under the Act could result in incarceration or fines of up to $100,000 for individuals and/or $500,000 for corporation. The Government used its expanded powers under the declaration to immediately prohibit all organized public events of over fifty people, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship. The Government also legally ordered the immediate closure of the following institutions:
Canada’s Big Six Banks announced measures to support small and medium-sized businesses, including through deferrals for mortgages and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.
This publication is intended only to provide general information. It should not be relied on as legal advice. For specific legal advice, please contact Leslie Dizgun, Paul Schwartzman, or Alyssa Jagt.