Effective 2 October 2020, Bill C-4: An Act relating to certain measures in response to COVID-19 received Royal Assent. Bill C-4 amends the Canada Labour Code to introduce COVID-19 related unpaid leave provisions applicable to federally regulated employees. Specifically, the bill amends the reasons for which federally regulated employees are entitled to COVID-19 related leave of absence and the duration of such leave.
The Canada Labour Code does not provide for paid leave related to COVID-19. The amendments provide federally regulated employees with entitlement to employment-protected unpaid leaves during which they may be eligible for the Canada Recovery Benefits (CRB) introduced by the same bill, namely:
- the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit
- the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit
- the Canada Recovery Benefit
Affected employers and employees
The COVID-19 related leave entitlements of the amendments apply to federally regulated employees and affect all federally regulated employers, which includes private sector employers in the following industries and workplaces:
- Air transportation, including airlines, airports, aerodromes, and aircraft operations
- Banks, including authorized foreign banks
- Grain elevators, feed and seed mills, feed warehouses, and grain-seed cleaning plants
- First Nations Band Councils (including certain community services on reserve)
- Most federal Crown corporations, for example, Canada Post Corporation
- Port services, marine shipping, ferries, tunnels, canals, bridges, and pipelines (oil and gas) that cross international or provincial borders
- Radio and television broadcasting
- Railways that cross provincial or international borders and some short-line railways
- Road transportation services, including trucks and buses, that cross provincial or international borders
- Telecommunications, such as, telephone, internet, telegraph, and cable systems
- Uranium mining and processing and atomic energy
- Any business that is vital, essential, or integral to the operation of one of the above activities
COVID-19 related leave for federally regulated employees
- An unpaid sickness leave up to 2 weeks, or the number of weeks that is specified by regulation introduced by the Governor in Council, if the employee is unable to work because:
- they have contracted or might have contracted COVID-19 or
- They are self- isolating on the advice of their employer, a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government, or public health authority.
- An unpaid caregiver’s leave of up to 26 weeks or the number of weeks specified by regulation introduced by the Governor in Council, if the they are unable to work because:
- They must care for a child under the age of 12 years who is unable to attend school or other facility fully or partially closed for COVID-19 related reasons;
- The child cannot attend the school or other facility because the child contracted or might have contracted COVID-19; is in isolation for reasons related to COVID-19 on the advice of a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, person in authority, government, or public health authority; or the child would, in the opinion of a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner, be at risk of having serious health complications if they contracted COVID-19;
- The person who usually cares for the child is not available for reasons related to COVID-19; or the normally provided care services at the family member’s residence are not available for COVID-19 related reasons.
The 26 weeks of COVID-19 related leave may be shared with another employee in the same household, and may be divided over multiple periods.
Furthermore, the amendments provide the Governor in Council the authority, until 25 September 2021, to introduce regulations, including regulations where under certain circumstances, a certificate by a health care practitioner would not be required, and the authority to provide for alternative requirements.