On March 21, 2020 the Ontario government issued a temporary order impacting Ontario’s health service providers in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. A similar order was issued which impacts long-term care home workers on March 24, 2020.
The order provides certain health service providers with the ability to make operational and staffing decisions which are reasonably necessary to respond to, prevent, and alleviate the COVID-19 virus, notwithstanding restrictions which might otherwise exist – including restrictions imposed by legislation, collective agreements, or other agreements, orders or policies.
By way of example, and without limiting other reasonably necessary measures which may be taken by health service providers, the temporary order provides certain health service providers with the ability to develop, modify and implement redeployment plans which include the ability to:
- Redeploy staff within different areas and/or facilities;
- Redeploy staff to COVID-19 assessment centres (not applicable to long-term care home staff);
- Make changes to the assignment of work, such as assigning bargaining unit work to non-bargaining unit employees or contractors;
- Make changes to employee scheduling and shifts;
- Postpone or cancel employee vacations, absences or leaves (including those established by legislation);
- Employ extra part-time or temporary workers or contractors, including those who may perform the work of bargaining unit employees;
- Allow volunteers to perform work, including that which is performed by bargaining unit employees; and
- Provide staff and volunteers with the appropriate training or education as required to ensure that the purposes of a redeployment plan are fulfilled.
Importantly, when implemented in accordance with the temporary order, these measures may be taken notwithstanding any statute, regulation, collective agreement (including lay-off, seniority/service, or bumping provisions), or some other arrangement or agreement, which might otherwise prohibit or restrict a health service or long-term care home provider.
The order regarding long-term care homes additionally allows impacted health service providers to:
- Make determinations of skills and experience levels of staff to identify possible alternative roles in other areas;
- Collect information from staff or contractors on a mandatory basis as to their availability to attend work and provide services for a health service provider;
- Require staff or contractors to provide information about their actual or likely exposure to the novel coronavirus or any other health conditions that may affect their ability to work; and
- Suspend any grievance process related to any matter set out in the Order, for the duration of the Order.
The government’s order with respect to health service providers is valid for a 14 day period, barring revocation or renewal in accordance with the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The order relevant to the operation of long-term care homes will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency declared by the government of Ontario.
We will continue to update our clients with information as soon as it becomes available. If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s COVID-19 website resources.