OWMA UPDATE: COVID-19 PANDEMIC – MARCH 20, 2020

 

COVID-19 Health Care Information

Please continue to monitor the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Dedicated COVID-19 Website for updates on the status of viral cases in Ontario, protecting yourself, what to do if you’re sick, and how to recognize symptoms.

 

Support for Ontario’s Waste Sector

OWMA has been in discussions with Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the waste management sector. Ministry staff want to know of any potential government actions or policies that will mitigate any negative health or economic impacts. OWMA has provided the government with some guidance on alleviating certain regulatory burdens on the waste sector. You can help by the following:

  • Let OWMA know of any specific tax or regulatory measures you believe would help your business or organization adopt to current challenges
  • Let OWMA know of any future measures or initiatives you believe would generate economic stimulus from the waste sector following this emergency period (example: Infrastructure projects, expedited approvals for new/expanded facilities, streamlined enforcement policies, etc…)

Contact scrombie@owma.org with any feedback and input.

 

Waste Worker Guidance for COVID-19

Source: American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees & United States Department of Labour

Management of waste that is suspected or known to contain or be contaminated with COVID-19 does not require additional precautions beyond those normally used to protect workers in the solid waste sector.

Municipal Waste and Recycling

Workers and employers should manage municipal (e.g., household, business) solid waste with potential or known COVID-19 contamination like any other non-contaminated municipal waste.

Use typical engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE, such as puncture-resistant gloves and face and eye protection, to prevent worker exposure.

Medical Waste

For medical waste with potential or known COVID-19 contamination, manage like any other regulated medical waste. COVID-19 is not a Category A infectious substance.

 

Ontario Extends Employee Protections in Response to COVID-19

Bill 186, the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020 was passed yesterday by the Ontario Legislature. The Act amends the leaves of absence provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) to provide more leave entitlements to employees impacted by COVID-19 and prohibits employers from requesting doctors’ notes. These provisions are retroactive to January 25, 2020.

 

Bill 186 amends the Employment Standards Act, 2000 to provide for a new unpaid, job-protected emergency leave to any employee who is not performing the duties of his or her position due to:

  • The employee being under medical investigation, supervision or treatment related to a designated infectious disease;
  • The employee acting in accordance with a relevant order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act related to a designated infectious disease;
  • The employee being in quarantine isolation or subject to a control measure (which can include self-isolation) implemented as a result of information or direction related to a designated infectious disease;
  • The employee being directed by their employer not to work due to a concern that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to a designated infectious disease;
  • The employee providing care or support to any one of a defined group of individuals related to a designated infectious disease which “concerns” that individual (including school and daycare closures); or
  • The employee being directly affected by travel restrictions related to the designated infectious disease and who cannot reasonably return to Ontario.

Declared emergency leave: Continues to apply to any employee who is not performing the duties of his or her position because an emergency has been declared under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and at least one of the following applies:

  • An order applies to that employee made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act;
  • An order applies to that employee made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act;
  • That employee is needed to provide care or assistance to any one of a defined group of individuals; or
  • For any other prescribed reason.
  • Length of Leave: Infectious disease emergency leave may last for as long as the employee is not performing their position for any one of the mandated reasons related to the designated infectious disease.

Medical Certificates: A medical certificate is not required to justify an entitlement to infectious disease emergency leave, but employers may request other evidence reasonable in the circumstances at a time that is reasonable in the circumstances to support their entitlement to leave.

 

Defined Group of “Individuals”: Under the amendments, the leave provisions apply to an employee providing care, support or assistance to the employee’s:

  • Spouse;
  • Parent of the employee or employee’s spouse;
  • Child of the employee or employee’s spouse;
  • Sibling of the employee or employee’s spouse;
  • Grandparent or grandchild of the employee or employee’s spouse;
  • Son or daughter-in-law of the employee or employee’s spouse;
  • Nephew or niece of the employee or employee’s spouse;
  • Spouse of the employee’s grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece;
  • Any person who considers the employee “to be like a family member”, provided any prescribed conditions are met; and
  • Any other prescribed individual.

The legislation came into force effective March 19, 2020, imposing job protection retroactive to January 25, 2020. The New Leave is unpaid and It is designed  to last as long as COVID-19 remains designated by regulation and the employee is unable to work because of the reason engaged by their circumstances.

 

Federal Government COVID-19 Economic Response Plan

On March 18, 2020, the federal government announced [SC3] an $82 billion aid package, with $27 billion in direct income support for individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, and $55 billion to assist with liquidity in the form of tax deferrals.

Details regarding these initiatives include:

  • EI Sickness Benefits:  the mandatory one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits would be temporarily waived for those “in imposed quarantine”, effective as of March 15, 2020.
  • EI Work-Sharing Program: The government will be enhancing the EI Work-Sharing Program for applicable employers and workers by extending the period during which the program can be used from 38 weeks to 76 weeks. The government will also be easing the eligibility requirements and streamlining the application process. Further details have not yet been released.
  • Emergency Care Benefit: An Emergency Care Benefit will be introduced for workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined, sick with COVID-19, or taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, but do not otherwise qualify for EI sickness benefits. This benefit will also be available to parents with children who require supervision due to school closures, and who are unable to work as a result, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI. The Emergency Care Benefit will pay eligible workers up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks. The application to access this new benefit is expected to be available in April.  
  • Emergency Support Benefit: An Emergency Support Benefit will be introduced for workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment. This benefit is expected to be implemented in early April through the Canada Revenue Agency.  
  • Temporary Business Wage Subsidy: The government will introduce a temporary wage subsidy for eligible small businesses (i.e., those who qualify for the small business tax credit), non-profit organizations and charities. The subsidy will be in effect for a period of three months, and is equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Eligible employers will obtain the subsidy by reducing the source deductions (for income tax withheld) they would otherwise be required to remit to the Canada Revenue Agency.
  • Minimum Withdrawals – RRIFs and Variable Benefits: The required minimum withdrawals from Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) will be reduced by 25% for 2020. Similar rules are expected to apply to variable benefit payments under defined contribution pension plans.  
  • Tax System: A number of tax deadlines were relaxed, to assist businesses and individuals with cash flow:
    • The tax filing deadline for individuals will be extended to June 1, 2020.
    • Businesses and individuals will be permitted to defer the payment of any income tax amounts (tax balances and instalments under Part I of the Income Tax Act) that become due and owing on or after March 18, 2020 and before September 2020. No interest or penalties will be applied to outstanding amounts during this period.
    • The CRA will also be pulling back on certain audit activity.

Source for the above summary: Hicks Morley

The complete details of the Federal Government’s economic response plan is here