Provinces stepping up to assist business owners
Despite moves to start back to work, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact a significant number of employers across the country, so some provinces are adjusting programs and adding protections to help companies navigate these unprecedented times.
In Ontario, the provincial government has announced a new regulatory amendment that will put non-unionized employees on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave during the COVID-19 outbreak any time their hours of work are temporarily reduced by their employer due to COVID-19. This will ensure businesses aren’t forced to terminate employees after their ESA temporary layoff periods have expired.
Under the new regulatory change to the Employment Standards Act, non-unionized employees who have had their hours reduced or eliminated because of the pandemic will be deemed to be on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. Workers will remain employed with legal protections and be eligible for federal emergency income support programs.
“As we take the necessary steps to safely and gradually restart the economy, we need to make sure business owners can reopen their doors and workers have jobs to go back to,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training & Skills Development. “This regulatory change will protect businesses from being forced to permanently lay off their employees due to COVID-19 and suffer a financial loss that could shutter their operations for good.”
According to Statistics Canada, 379,000 Ontario workers were temporarily laid off in April 2020, an increase of 2,496 per cent compared with one year earlier.
The regulatory amendment applies retroactively to March 1, 2020 and will expire six weeks after the declared emergency ends. The regulatory amendments do not include employees represented by a trade union.
The Ontario government is also deferring $1.9 billion in Workplace Safety and Insurance Board premium payments until August 31, 2020.
Also looking to aid business, the provincial government in B.C. has announced that businesses in that province eligible for commercial rent relief for commercial tenants and landlords through the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program will be protected from evictions via a new order under the Emergency Program Act (EPA).
“The federal launch of the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program has been a welcome step in B.C., but we heard from small businesses that they need us to help fill a gap that has left some of them unable to get the support they need,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “We’re listening to small businesses and have their backs. Preventing landlords who are eligible for CECRA from evicting tenants can encourage landlords to apply for the program and give some temporary relief to businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic.”
Eligible businesses whose landlords choose not to apply for the federal CECRA program will be protected from evictions due to unpaid rent payments through to the end of June 2020, as determined by the federal program timelines.
The EPA order restricts the termination of lease agreements and the repossession of goods and property.
The emergency order restricting evictions is effective immediately.