COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan City, China in late 2019. Initially known as “2019 Novel Coronavirus,” the first case was reported on December 31, 2019, with confirmation and identification occurring on January 7th, 2020. On March 2, 2020, the Ontario government announced that it is implementing enhanced measures to safeguard the public from COVID-19 including a new response structure to ensure health system readiness.
As the instances of COVID-19 increase throughout Canada and the world, employers should become prepared for a wider outbreak. Having the proper plans and policies in place to address COVID-19 in the workplace will not only assist in business continuity but will also protect employees. The following articles will set out some of the key obligations and important issues employers should consider.
ONTARIO EXTENDS DECLARATION of EMERGENCY
May 12, 2020 – The Ontario government is extending the Declaration of Emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This additional time will ensure the province has the necessary tools and health care capacity to contain COVID-19, while gradually reopening businesses, services, and amenities safely. Passed during a special sitting of the Ontario Legislature today, the Declaration of Emergency has been extended until
June 2, 2020. To read more click here.
LINKS TO GOVERNMENT RESOURCES
Click the following link below for factsheets and government resources.
Click the following link for Province of Ontario updates provided twice daily.
Click the following link for articles pertaining to construction & business.
ONTARIO RELEASES FRAMEWORK FOR REOPENING
April 27, 2020 – A Framework for Reopening our Province lays out the government’s approach to the next chapter in the ongoing fight to defeat COVID-19. It outlines the principles the government will use to reopening businesses, services and public spaces in gradual stages. It also explains the criteria Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health will use to help advise the government on when it is safe to begin loosening public health restrictions. Click here to read it.
CONTRACTOR HOT LINE
Business owners can call a new HOTLINE established to answer questions concerning your essential business status. The ‘Stop The Spread’ hotline number is 1-888-444-3659. The line will be available from 8:30am – 9:00pm Monday – Friday and 8:30am – 5:00pm Saturday & Sunday.
FOR ALL WSIB QUESTIONS
For any WSIB questions, we have contracted TeksMed through ECA Ontario to provide support for all issues. The number is 1-877-850-1021. This is a complimentary service for ECA Ottawa members.
CANADA EMERGENCY WAGE SUBSIDY (CEWS)
April 27, 2020 – For employers, the proposed CEWS would apply at a rate of 75 per cent of the first $58,700 normally earned by employees – representing a benefit of up to $847 per week, per employee. The program would be in place for a 12-week period, from March 15 to June 6, 2020. Employers of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy would be eligible, with certain exceptions including public sector entities. An eligible employer’s entitlement to this wage subsidy will be based entirely on the salary or wages actually paid to employees. Click here to learn how to apply.
For information on eligibility, calculations 10% wage subsidy for employers and the Canada Emergency Business Allowance click here.
COMMERCIAL RENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The Ontario Government is committing $241 million to partner with the federal government and deliver more than $900 million in urgent relief to small businesses and their landlords through a new program, the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA).
The OCECRA will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners experiencing potential rent shortfalls because their small business tenants have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Click here for more details.
SMALL BUSINESSES AND LANDLORD RELIEF
The Ontario government is partnering with the federal government to provide urgent relief for small businesses and landlords affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The province is committing $241 million through the new Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA). The total amount of provincial-federal relief that would be provided is more than $900 million, helping to ensure small businesses are ready to reopen their doors when the emergency measures are lifted. Click here for more.
SUSPENSION OF HOLDBACKS LIFTED APRIL 16
The emergency order regarding the suspension of limitation periods and procedural time periods under the Construction Act has been lifted. This allows for the release of holdback payments to contractors and subcontractors in the normal course, helping to resolve a potentially significant cash flow problem.
The suspension was lifted on April 16, 2020 to give the industry time to prepare for these changes. Once lifted, parties will have the same amount of time to meet a deadline that had been remaining before the suspension began on March 16, 2020.
RECAP OF BUSINESS SUPPORT PROGRAMS
April 24, 2020 – Along with the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which open April 27, 2020 there are also a number of additional programs available to employers including:
– Business Credit Availability Program
– Canada Emergency Business Account
– EDC Loan Guarantee for Small & Medium Enterprises
– BDC Co-Lending Program for Small & Medium Enterprises
– Deferal of WSIB Insurance Premium Payments, Income Tax & GST/HST
– Increase in the Employer Health Tax Exemption
To read more please click here.
CONSTRUCTION HOURS ATTENDED
April 8, 2020 – Premier Doug Ford has accelerated work on critical infrastructure projects for health care. Hours of work for essential construction critical to health care will be permitted to run 24 hours a day without violating local noise bylaws.
This means that construction projects associated with new medical facilities, expansions, renovations or conversion of spaces that can be repurposed for health care can remain open at all times. Also included are temporary structures for health care and COVID-19 assessment.
For the purposes of section 451.1 of the Act, a municipality does not have power to prohibit and regulate with respect to noise made in connection with the following:
1. Construction projects and services in a municipality associated with the healthcare sector, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be repurposed for health care space, at any time of the day or night.
2. Any other construction activity in a municipality between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
ESA FEE’S and PERMITS
April 23, 2020 – ECA Ontario wrote to the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) regarding an unfortunately, and no doubt, unintentional consequence of the Ontario Government’s actions to stop the spread of COVID-19; specifically the expiration, renewal, and “empty” or “lost” costs of electrical permits to electrical contractors throughout the Province for jobs that are/were shuttered. As a result, ESA has proposed the following relief:
- No permit renewal fees will be applied to/charged for any site to which a contractor DOES NOT have access.
- If you have a permit renewal fee due during this time, contact ESA who will (on a case-by-case basis) extend the permit for thirty (30) days.
- Renewal, as well as all other fees and permits, will continue for projects considered “essential workplaces” and to which you have access.
- No permit fees are being charged for Temporary Emergency Health Care Facilities or Temporary Residential Facilities.
- ESA is charging zero fees with respect to Home Care Ontario program.
- ESA is also pausing interest charges on outstanding permits.
It is ECAO’s understanding that ALL legitimate requests for extensions as outlined above will be granted. It is the contractor’s responsibility to request the extension of time.
Please do not make requests for extension of time for projects to which you have access.
ESSENTIAL SERVICES LIST REVISED
Following advice from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, on April 3, 2020, Ontario updated the list of essential businesses that can remain open. The restrictions are aimed at further reducing contact between people and stopping the spread of COVID-19. By 11:59 p.m. Saturday, April 4, 2020, businesses that are not identified on this list must close their physical locations.
20. Maintenance, repair and property management services strictly necessary to manage and maintain the safety, security, sanitation and essential operation of institutional, commercial, industrial and residential properties and buildings.
- Construction projects and services associated with the healthcare sector, including new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be re purposed for health care space.
- Construction projects and services required to ensure safe and reliable operations of, or to provide new capacity in, critical provincial infrastructure, including transit, transportation, energy and justice sectors beyond the day-to-day maintenance.
- Critical industrial construction activities required for,
- the maintenance and operations of petrochemical plants and refineries,
- significant industrial petrochemical projects where preliminary work has already commenced,
- industrial construction and modifications to existing industrial structures limited solely to work necessary for the production, maintenance, and/or enhancement of Personal Protective Equipment, medical devices (such as ventilators), and other identified products directly related to combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Residential construction projects where,
- a footing permit has been granted for single family, semi-detached and townhomes
- an above grade structural permit has been granted for condominiums, mixed use and other buildings, or
- the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work was started before April 4, 2020.
- Construction and maintenance activities necessary to temporarily close construction sites that have paused or are not active and to ensure ongoing public safety.Resources and Energy
- Businesses that provide and ensure the domestic and global continuity of supply of resources, including mining, forestry, aggregates, petroleum, petroleum by-products and chemicals.
- Electricity generation, transmission, distribution and storage and natural gas distribution, transmission and storage.
RECOMMENDED FOR COMPLETING EI ROE FORM
Issuing Employee ROE`s:
ROEs need to be coded with a reason for why they’re being issued:
Use Code A — Shortage of Work / End of Contract or Season if
You’ve closed your business or adjusted your workforce as a precaution.
Use Code D — Illness/Injury for:
Actual illness or an employee who has tested positive.
An employee who has travelled and is now self-isolating.
Use Code N — Leave of Absence if
The employee is showing no symptoms but is making a personal choice to distance themselves just to be safe.
NOTE: Do not put a note in BOX 18. This “flags” the ROE in the system and may slow processing.
QUEBEC CLOSING BORDER TO TRAVEL
April 1, 2020 – Quebec has setup check points at all access points from Ottawa to Gatineau. For Gatineau resident’s working in Ontario construction sites, Québec police have advised us that a letter from their employer confirming that they are working in Ontario on a construction site, which is still deemed ‘essential’, will facilitate their return home at night.
A bilingual template letter in WORD is downloadable for your firm to customize and print on your letterhead. Click here to download the letter.
NEW RESOURCES FOR CONTRACTORS
Released March 27. National best practices document.
Released March 20. Suggested best practices document.
The OCA template is provided as an aid for contractors to develop their own jobsite COVID-19 safety plan. The document is a compilation of best practices that have been shared and requires an employer to adapt to their firm.
WAGE SUBSIDIES FOR BUSINESS
A promised federal wage subsidy to cover three-quarters of salaries will go to any company — large, medium or small — charity or non-profit that can show it has seen revenues drop sharply due to COVID-19. While more details are forthcoming, the government has indicated the following:
- If your business revenue has gone down by at least 30%, you will be eligible
- The number of employees you have will not be taken into account
- Eligibility will include operations with employees from 10 to 1000 people
- The first $58,700 that Canadians earn, up to $847 a week, will be covered
- Back dated to March 15th
MINISTER ANNOUNCES EXTENSION TO WAH
The mandatory training of many of our workers workers was due to expire over the next six months. However, many training providers have either cancelled classes or shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The extension will apply to workers who successfully completed their Working At Heights training between February 28 and August 31, 2017. The validity period, normally three years, would have ended this year. It will now end in 2021
A GUIDE TO DEALING WITH COVID 19
Read this new Construction COVID-19 resource, “DEALING with COVID-19” from the Alberta Construction Association. The guide is titled “Pandemic Planning for the Construction Industry”. The 21-page guide by ACA stands out as one of the most comprehensive resources yet developed for construction employers. It can be downloaded directly by clicking on this LINK.
ECA OTTAWA TO DONATE MASKS & RESPIRATORS
Please Donate – To all ECA Ottawa Members, we are asking that you donate any available masks (N95) or other usable version and personal respirators (P100) or other related version to area hospitals. Contact the hospital directly at CHEO, Bill Stanzel, firstname.lastname@example.org or Ottawa Hospital, Devan O’Donnell 613-407-9040 or Nathalie Frappier, 613-314-9011 (email@example.com)
CITY OF OTTAWA – BIDDERS HAVE NEW DROP OFF LOCATION
New Drop Off Rules – City of Ottawa’s 100 Constellation building has now been closed to the public, and in order to facilitate the receiving of physical documents (such as signed and sealed performance bonds, contracts) during this time. Supply has made arrangements to allow vendors to drop off their documents at the Provincial offence’s fine payment drop box which is located on the exterior of the building just to the left of the front doors. You MUST indicate the that your envelope is for Supply Services, 4th floor West.
CANADA EMERGENCY RESPONSE BENEFIT (CERB)
Today the Federal government introduced the senate approved emergency aid package called the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The revised package is set at $107BN, up from the originally announced $82BN last week. It is meant to be simpler, and amends some of the previous announcements on funds available to workers:
The benefit will now provide $2,000 a month for the next four months to workers not getting a pay cheque as a result of COVID-19.
It will cover Canadians who have lost their job, are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19, as well as working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are sick or home because of school or daycare closures.
It applies to wage earners, contract workers, and self-employed people not otherwise eligible for EI.
CERB also applies to workers who are still employed but not receiving income due to disruptions to their work because of COVID-19. This way businesses can keep employees and be ready to restart operations quickly.
Recipients will receive their money within 10 days of applying. The portal opens the first week of April. If you are already receiving EI, you should not apply for CERB.
COVID-19 IBEW OUT OF WORK LIST
UPDATE ON LAYOFFS – March 17, 2020. With regards to your employees, the IBEW has revised its hiring hall rules (click here). The process for you, as an employer, is to lay-off your employees so that they can collect EI while we wait for this to blow over. Please pass this information along to your employees as well. Here are the three scenarios:
* For those workers who are in quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate as a result of the COVID-19, please fill in the ROE as “Medical” and the one-week waiting period will be waived, subject to them calling the EI Hotline at 1-833-381-2725. Please email the name of the employee and job site that was shut down to the IBEW at firstname.lastname@example.org. This will keep them out of the unions “work book.” Note the IBEW is closed to everyone other than staff.
* For those workers who are out of work due to temporary lay-offs and job site closures they will not be eligible for the one-week waiver. Therefore, please fill in the ROE as “Shortage of Work due to Coronavirus”. They will have to wait 1 week for EI to start. Please email the name of the employee and job site that was shut down to the IBEW at email@example.com. Again, this will keep them out of the unions “work book.”
* For those workers who volunteer to self-isolate due to travel, please check off ‘Other” on the ROE and include ‘self-isolated due to travel.’ You can then direct the employee to the EI Hotline at 1-833-381-2725 where they can make their case to have the one-week waiting period waived. Please email the name of the employee and job site that was shut down to the IBEW at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, this will keep them out of the “work book.”
Please tell your employees that they do not have to sign ‘the book’. The IBEW will track the employees as they’re names and job sites are sent to the IBEW from you, the employer. Once the pandemic is over, the employees will simply return to work after the contractor notifies the IBEW in writing.
Should you have any questions, you can reference this ECA Ottawa website, EI sickness benefits. The online application is available at https://srv270.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/AW/introduction?GoCTemplateCulture=en-CA.
Please ensure you read the attached memo from the IBEW. If you have any questions, and due to the overwhelming number of calls due to this virus, it would best to email the ECA Ottawa office, email@example.com.
Some very good and trusted information can be found at . Information can be found via the following link https://hicksmorley.com/2020/03/16/update-on-coronavirus-covid-19-ontario-announces-pandemic-enhanced-measures-to-safeguard-public/.
UPDATE – Trade School
In speaking with Algonquin College, they have suspended all Trade School and intakes for new apprentice until at least April 6, 2020. All Ministry exams are also suspended until April 6, 2020. When new information is available we will post it for your information.
UPDATE – March 16, 2020. The Federal Government Is Now Asking Travelers returning from Outside Canad to Self Isolate for 14 Days. This article provide some excellent information on the virus, sick leave benefits, EI and more. To read the article please click here.
Hicks Morley (legal Form)
– What Employers Need to Know
Emond Harnden (Labour & Employment Law)
– Background, Legislation & Obligations For Employers
Hicks Morley (Legal Firm)
– Update on COVID-19 for Employers
Sherrard & Kuzz (LLP)
– FAQ’s to Assist Employers
McKinsey & Company (Management Consulting)
– COVID Briefing Notes & Impact
Canadian Federation of Independent Business
– Keeping You and Your Employees Safe
Please Note: this is not legal advice from the Association. For legal opinions please contact your lawyer.