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COVID-19: Ontario declares a state of emergency

state of emergency

On Tuesday, March 17, the Premier of Ontario declared a state of emergency in Ontario amid the COVID-19 outbreak.[1] Specifically, the Province of Ontario has ordered a prohibition on organized public gatherings of over 50 people (including parades, events, and services within places of worship) and the immediate closure of the following settings until March 31, 2020:

  • All facilities providing indoor recreational programs;
  • All public libraries;
  • All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
  • All licensed child care centres;
  • All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
  • All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
  • Concert venues.

These measures follow on the heels of yesterday afternoon’s recommendation from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams. Similar declarations have happened in Alberta and Quebec.

The Premier of Ontario stressed that the declared state of emergency does not constitute a “provincial shutdown” and that the vast majority of businesses “will not be affected by the order.” For example, most businesses, including grocery stores, pharmacies and shopping centres, will not be impacted by the order.

This declared state of emergency will trigger an obligation on employers, under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000, to provide any employees impacted by these measures with an unpaid leave of absence known as “Emergency Leave”. This form of job-protected leave must be provided for as long as an employee is affected by the declared emergency.

Employees who will be entitled to take Emergency Leave include those directly impacted as a result of business closures as well as employees whose family caregiver responsibilities are engaged by the closures (i.e. daycares).

By Kate McNeill-Keller, Matthew Demeo and Marco Fimiani


[1] This order was declared under s 7.0.1 (1) the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, RSO 1990, c. E9.

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Employer Advisor, McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Employment and labour lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault LLP
McCarthy Tétrault through their Employer Advisor blogs offers their perspectives on the latest legal developments applicable to the workplace. It provides their insights on legislative and regulatory developments, as well as new case law, while providing practical tips for employers and their human resources professionals when managing the workforce. McCarthy Tétrault is a Canadian law firm that delivers integrated business law, litigation services, tax law, real property law, labour and employment law nationally and globally. Several of their blog posts will be republished with permission on First Reference Talks. Read more
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