Taking One’s Leave: Determining entitlement to leaves of absence, vacation, and sickness and disability benefits in the time of COVID-19

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, workplace parties across Canada have had to adapt their workplaces. In doing so, they have had to balance the employer’s need to ensure orderly, efficient, safe, and predictable operations at the workplace against employees’ needs for greater flexibility, to attend to additional childcare and other family responsibilities, to self-isolate in certain circumstances, and more. In this webinar, experienced legal counsel will discuss the various leaves of absence, vacation, sickness, and other entitlements available to employees to help them to cope with the unusual circumstances created by the pandemic. Counsel will consider the adequacy, appropriateness, and scope of these benefits, as well as recent caselaw and arbitral jurisprudence.

– What leaves of absence and other benefits are available to workers who have to take time off work because of the pandemic? Are these adequate, or are most employees left to rely on collective agreement provisions not specifically designed to address the pandemic?
– What language have employers and unions negotiated — either in new collective agreements or in memoranda of understanding — to specifically deal with COVID-related leaves?
– Have leaves enabled parents, particularly mothers, to meet the demands of childcare during the pandemic?
– Have employers encouraged or required employees to postpone vacations during the pandemic? Have workers themselves refrained from taking vacations? Have unions and employers come to agreements on vacation carry-over? Has there been any litigation related to the issue?
– What entitlements to paid sick leave exist across Canada? Are these sufficient?
– What evidence is required from employees wishing to take sick leave or vacation or access other sickness and disability benefits during the pandemic?
– How have adjudicators decided disputes regarding entitlement to paid and unpaid leaves during the pandemic? Have sick leave or other paid leave provisions in collective agreements been interpreted broadly enough to allow employees with minor COVID- related symptoms, or those who have potentially been exposed, to stay home?
– What impact do these leaves and benefits have on other entitlements provided for by legislation or collective agreements, such as continuity of service, return to work, etc.?