Ford says he will protect workers who need to take leave amid coronavirus pandemic

Mar 16 2020, 4:06 pm

Premier Doug Ford said the province is introducing legislation that would provide job protection in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, Ford also outlined how the province will increase economic support to help residents and businesses.

“The situation we’re facing has changed quickly and we’re adapting with it,” Ford said during a press conference. “These are unprecedented times.”

The premier outlined the province’s $100 million in contingency funding, as well as the $200 million from the federal government to tackle the coronavirus spread. There is also an additional $10 million in awareness campaign funding to keep the province responsibly informed.

“Keeping the public informed is one of the most important things,” Ford said.

The province is currently drafting legislation for workers and families. If the law is passed, Ford said that any individuals that have coronavirus, or are in self-isolation or quarantine will not lose their jobs.

According to the province, the proposed legislation would, if passed, provide job protection for employees unable to work for the following reasons: the employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19; The employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act; The employee is in isolation or quarantine; The employee is acting in accordance with public health information or direction; The employer directs the employee not to work; and the employee needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.

“While everyone’s concerns about their health and safety is top of mind, the last thing we need is anyone worrying about job security as the COVID-19 situation evolves,” said Premier Ford in a statement.

“That’s why I directed the Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development to draft legislation that will protect workers and their families during this difficult period.”

If passed, the laws will be put in place retroactively from January 25, 2020 — when the first case of the virus became known in the province. And the law would be in place until the coronavirus pandemic has ended.

Rod Philips, the Finance Minister of Ontario also will provide a revised the 2020 budget that will be released on March 25.

“The financial plan is as current as possible given the dynamic situation,” Phillips said.

The budget is based on a one-year projection from economists on measures the province should take immediately. There will be increased measures to take jobs and actions to protect jobs and workers, the minister said.

Many workers will also be eligible for Employment Insurance sickness benefits.

The province is also reviewing the current access and eligibility to emergency assistance which is available through the Ontario Works (OW) program to support individuals who are impacted by the coronavirus and who are not able to meet their basic living expenses.

Ford added that supply chains can handle the additional pressure and emphasized that residents must be prepared with supplies and provisions, but must make sure there is “enough for everyone,” noting there is “plenty of toilet paper.”

Ford said that borders should be tightened for travellers outside of Canada and people in the province should not travel outside of the country, but emphasized that borders should remain open for trade and commerce to keep the supply chain protected.

Last week the province implemented enhanced measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 with dedicated assessment centres and increased lab testing.

Ontario’s new Command Table — an oversight committee that handles the province’s response to the coronavirus — finalized plans for the implementation of enhanced measures to ensure the province is prepared.

Some of these measures include, increased access to screening, lab-testing capacity, and implementing new initiatives to keep the public and frontline workers protected.

According the province, 17 dedicated assessment and testing centres opened across the province and a new online self assessment tool was launched on Sunday, which encouraged residents to use the tool at home before going to an assessment centre.

As of Monday morning, 177 cases in Ontario have been confirmed, with 5 cases resolved and over 1,500 under investigation.

Clarrie FeinsteinClarrie Feinstein

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