Ontario Implements Emergency Order to Support Developmental Services Agencies Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

The Government of Ontario implemented an emergency order designed to ensure that adults with developmental disabilities continue to receive support and services amid the outbreak of COVID-19. More specifically, the temporary order provides developmental service agencies with increased flexibility in relation to staffing, allowing them to redirect workers to more essential tasks. The emergency order will remain in effect for the duration of the declared emergency.

The emergency order authorizes developmental service agencies to take any reasonably necessary measure with respect to work deployment and staffing to respond to, prevent and alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19.

Without limiting other reasonably necessary measures that developmental service agencies may take, the order provides that service agencies are authorized to identify staffing priorities and develop, modify and implement redeployment plans, including the ability to:

  • Redeploy staff within different locations in (or between) premises where a service agency provides services and supports;
  • Change the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
  • Change the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
  • Defer or cancel vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
  • Employ extra full-time, part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purposes of performing bargaining unit work;
  • Allow volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining unit work;
  • Provide appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan.

When implemented pursuant to the temporary order, redeployment plans may be taken notwithstanding any statute, regulation, order, policy, arrangement, or a collective agreement (including provisions related to lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions).

The order also provides that developmental service agencies may:

  • Make determinations of skills and experience inventories of staff to identify possible alternative roles in any area;
  • Require and collect information from staff or contractors about their availability to provide services for the service agency;
  • Require staff or contractors to provide information about their likely or actual exposure to the Virus, or about any other health conditions that may affect their ability to provide services and supports; and
  • Suspend any grievance process with respect to any matter referred to in this Order, for the duration of this Order

With respect to screening measures and training and orientation requirements, the temporary order provides that:

  • Where they are unable to arrange accordingly, service agencies are not required to meet the screening measures set out in the associated regulation to the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, provided they adopt appropriate measures to ensure the safety of persons with developmental disabilities;
  • Service agencies are not required to meet the training and orientation requirements set out in the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act and associated regulation, provided they ensure staff and volunteers are sufficiently trained to meet the specific individual needs and ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the persons with developmental disabilities. However, physical restraints may only be used by staff and volunteers who have been trained pursuant to the Regulation and policy directives; and
  • Where they are unable to do so, service agencies may defer the requirement to provide refresher courses, both theoretical and practical, pursuant to a retraining or recertification schedule or the recommendation of a training provider.

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.

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