On June 29, 2021, the Federal Government passed Bill C-30, Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1, introducing a number of changes impacting federally regulated workplaces and extending existing COVID-19 related economic measures.

Changes to the Canada Labour Code (“CLC”):

  • Child Death & Disappearance Leave: The maximum period of leave for a parent of a child who has disappeared increases from 52 to 104 weeks, and eligibility for the leave extends to parents of children under the age of 25 (previously capped at 18). One of the exceptions disallowing entitlement to this leave (i.e., where it is probable the child was party to the crime) has been amended so that it only applies where the child is 14 years of age or older at the time of the crime, and it is probable the child was party to the crime. This change came into effect on June 29, 2021.
  •  Increase in Federal Minimum Wage: Beginning December 29, 2021, the federal minimum hourly wage rate will be increased to $15.00. On April 1st of each year following, the minimum hourly wage rate will be incrementally adjusted to account for inflation. Where a province or territory provides for a minimum wage that is greater than the federal minimum wage, employers are expected to pay the higher wage.
  •  Extended COVID-19 Related Leave: The maximum number of weeks for unpaid leave for COVID-19 related caregiving duties increases from 38 weeks to 42 weeks. Bill C-30 repeals section 33.1(b) of the Canada Labour Code Regulations, which limited the number of weeks an employee could take for a COVID-19-related caregiver leave to 38 weeks. This change came into effect on June 29, 2021.
  •  Extended Medical Leave: The maximum length of medical-related leaves under the CLC has increased from 17 weeks to 27 weeks. The amendments also add “quarantine” to the reasons for which an employee can take medical leave. This will come into force on a future date upon proclamation.

 Changes to Employment Insurance Act (“EI”):

  • Increase in Maximum EI Sickness Benefits: The maximum number of weeks of employment insurance sickness benefits that may be paid because of illness, injury or quarantine increases from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. This change comes into force on a day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council.
  • Treatment of Separation Payments: The EI Regulation is amended to clarify and simplify the rules around the treatment of money that is paid on separation, including severance and vacation pay. This will allow claimants to receive EI benefits at the same time. The amendments will remain in place for a one-year period beginning September 26, 2021.

Changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (“CEWS”):

  • CEWS Extended to September 25, 2021: The qualifying claim period for CEWS has been extended until September 25, 2021. Additionally, for employees on leave with pay, (for example, “inactive” or “furloughed” employees), the CEWS will be extended until August 28, 2021.
  • Eligibility Criteria and Level of Subsidization: On July 4, 2021, the subsidy rate began to decrease in order to phase-out the program as the economy reopened. For Period 18 (July 4, 2021 – July 31, 2021), businesses will need to demonstrate that there was a decline in revenues of more than 10% in order to be eligible for the CEWS.
  • Repayment of CEWS for Certain Publicly Listed Corporations: Bill C-30 adds definitions for “executive compensation repayment amount” and “executive remuneration” to the ITA, as well as new sections 125.7 (14) and 125.7 (15), to introduce a CEWS repayment framework for certain publicly listed companies. Certain publicly listed corporations may need to repay some of or all of the CEWS that they received from June 6, 2021, onward, if i) a corporation has shares of capital stock that are listed or traded on a stock exchange or public market (or the corporation is controlled by such a publicly listed corporation); and ii) the total executive compensation paid to certain executives in 2021 exceeds the amount that was paid in 2019.

 

On July 9, 2021, the Ontario government announced that the province will enter Step Three of the Roadmap to Reopen on Friday, July 16, 2021, five days earlier than expected. Under Step Three, the following is permitted to operate:

  • indoor dining with no limits on the number of patrons per table with physical distancing and other restrictions still in effect;
  • indoor meeting and event spaces with physical distancing and other restrictions still in effect and capacity limited to 50% or 1,000 people (whichever is less);
  • essential and non-essential retail with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two meters;
  • personal care services, including services requiring the removal of a face covering, with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two meters;
  • museums, galleries, historic sites, aquariums, zoos, landmarks, botanical gardens, science centres, casinos/bingo halls, amusement parks, fairs and rural exhibitions, festivals, with capacity limited to 50% indoors and 75% outdoors;
  • concert venues, cinemas, and theatres permitted to operate at:
    • up to 50% capacity indoors or a maximum limit of 1,000 people for seated events (whichever is less)
    • up to 75% capacity outdoors or a maximum limit of 5,000 people for unseated events (whichever is less); and up to 75% capacity outdoors or a maximum of 15,000 people for events with fixed seating (whichever is less).
  • indoor food or drink establishments where dance facilities are provided, including nightclubs and restobars, permitted up to 25% capacity or up to a maximum limit of 250 people (whichever is less).

A number of other restrictions will be eased under Step Three. The province’s announcement along with a full list of permitted activities under Step Three can be found here.

The province will remain in Step Three for at least 21 days and until 80% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75% have received their second, with no public health unit in the province having less than 70% of people fully vaccinated. Other key public health and health care indicators must also continue to remain stable. Upon meeting these thresholds, the vast majority of public health and workplace safety measures, including capacity limits for indoor and outdoor settings and limits for social gatherings, will be completely lifted. Only a small number of measures are expected to remain in place following the end of Step Three, including passive screening (e.g. posting signs at all entrances informing people to screen themselves for COVID-19 before entry), and having a safety plan for businesses. Face coverings in indoor public settings and physical distancing requirements remain in place throughout Step Three. You can find our blog post on the province’s three-step Roadmap to Reopen here.

Employers should continue to pay close attention to the latest public health restrictions to understand how they affect their business. If you have any questions about what the current restrictions mean for your business, please contact our team.

Today, Canada’s Minister of Labour announced that Canada’s federal Pay Equity Act (“Pay Equity Act”) will come into force on August 31, 2021. This is a big step towards eliminating systemic discrimination, reducing gender wage inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and promoting equal pay for work of equal value in the federal sector.

The Pay Equity Act aims to achieve “pay equity” as opposed to “equal pay for equal work”. Equal pay for equal work compares compensation paid to workers who are in the same (or similar) position, whereas “pay equity” compares the compensation provided to workers in different jobs. In particular, pay equity compares compensation provided to “predominantly female job classes” and “predominantly male job classes”.

The Pay Equity Act regulates “compensation” not just “base pay”. Under the Pay Equity Act, “compensation” is defined broadly to include remuneration and benefits provided to employees for the work they perform, including:

  • salaries, commissions, vacation pay, severance pay and bonuses
  • payments in kind
  • employer contributions to pension funds or plans, long-term disability plans and all forms of health insurance plans
  • any other advantage received directly or indirectly from the employer

Under the Pay Equity Act, federally regulated employers with 10 or more federally regulated employees will be required to:

  • establish a representative pay equity committee
  • identify “job classes” and determine their gender predominance (if any)
  • evaluate each job class using a gender-neutral comparison system
  • compare job classes, normally using the “equal average method” or the “equal line method”
  • draft and post a pay equity plan, and provide employees with an opportunity to comment
  • consider employee comments and implement the pay equity plan within three years
  • increase compensation for the predominantly female job classes that are comparatively underpaid
  • maintain pay equity and review the pay equity plan at least once every five years
  • provide certain information to their pay equity committee and certain notices to their employees
  • file information (e.g. annual statements) with the Pay Equity Commissioner

The above list is subject to a very detailed and prescriptive set of rules and requirements established under the Pay Equity Act, and a corresponding regulation which was recently finalized.

Employers who fail to comply with the Pay Equity Act will face consequences. The Pay Equity Commissioner has authority to conduct a compliance audit under the Act, and may make orders requiring employers to comply. Administrative monetary penalties up to $50,000 may be imposed. There will also be a process allowing employees, bargaining agents, and employers to file a complaint with the Pay Equity Commissioner, who may refer the matter to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Employers should also be wary of the significant and costly harm non-compliance can have on their reputation and employee morale.

In summary, the Pay Equity Act will present unique challenges to federally regulated employers, and compliance will require significant time and attention, particularly over the next three years as pay equity plans are developed and implemented. Federally regulated employers who have not already done so should immediately start to prepare for Canada’s new pay equity regime with input from, among others, qualified legal advisors.

Many thanks to Sandy Park for her assistance with this article.

In an encouraging decision for employers, the Ontario Court of Appeal clarified that a corporation is not a common employer just because it “owned, controlled or was affiliated with another corporation that had a direct employment relationship with the employee”. In O’Reilly v. ClearMRI Solutions Ltd., 2021 ONCA 385, the Court affirmed that the doctrine of common employer cannot be applied if there is no intention to create an employer/employee relationship between the individual and the related corporation.

Key Takeaways for Employers

Corporate entities often structure their businesses through multiple corporations for tax, liability or other strategic reasons. It’s essential employers consider common employer issues when designing a corporate structure. Further, employers must review these structures periodically as the structure changes or as employees, or the work they perform, are transferred between related corporate entities.

To limit the risk of a common employer finding, employers should bear the following in mind:

  • Employment contracts for non-unionized employees should set out the identity of the intended employer.
  • Administration of the employment relationship (i.e., payroll, tax remittances etc.) should be limited to the intended employer.
  • Control of an employee’s work, including hiring, training, supervision, discipline and termination, should be limited to the intended employer.
  • Employers should not rely on employee work to support the functions of multiple business entities, unless employers intend those entities to be a common employer.

Case Background

In ClearMRI, the appellant, Tornado Medical Systems, Inc., was a majority shareholder of ClearMRI Solutions Ltd. (”ClearMRI Canada”), which itself had a wholly owned subsidiary, ClearMRI Solutions, Inc. (”ClearMRI US”). The respondent, William O’Reilly, was the former Chief Executive Officer of ClearMRI Canada and ClearMRI US. His written employment agreement was with ClearMRI US, but he reported to, and his performance goals were set by, the board of directors of ClearMRI Canada.

Mr. O’Reilly sued Tornado, ClearMRI Canada and ClearMRI US and Dr. Jae Kim, a director for both Tornado and the ClearMRI companies, for salary and other entitlements allegedly owed when his employment ended. While Mr. O’Reilly did not have a formal position or written agreement with Tornado, he alleged that it, along with the ClearMRI companies, were his common employers. Mr. O’Reilly obtained a default judgment against the ClearMRI companies and a summary judgment against Tornado and Dr. Kim. Tornado and Dr. Kim appealed the summary judgment decision.

The Court’s Analysis

On appeal, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeal held that the motion judge failed to apply the correct test, and accordingly overturned the lower court’s decision and found that Tornado was not liable under the common employer doctrine.

The Court of Appeal emphasized the concept of corporate separateness ¾ the principle that control by one corporation over another, on its own, does not make the controlling corporation liable for the obligations of the controlled corporation. Corporate separateness has exceptions — the court may pierce the corporate veil and hold a parent corporation liable for obligations nominally incurred by a subsidiary corporation that is a mere façade. But in such a case, a fraudulent or improper purpose must be present. The common employer doctrine does not involve piercing the corporate veil or ignoring separate legal personality of each corporation.

The Legal Test for Common Employers

A court should not hold a corporation liable under the common employer doctrine just because it owned, controlled, or was affiliated with another corporation that had a direct employment relationship with the employee. Rather, a corporation related to the nominal employer is a common employer only where the employee can prove that there was an intention to create an employer/employee relationship between the individual and the related corporation.

The key question is, did the employee and the corporation alleged to be a common employer intend to contract about employment with each other on the terms alleged? When such an intention is found to exist, no violence is done to the concept of corporate separateness because the corporation is held liable for the obligations it has undertaken.

A variety of conduct may be relevant to the question of intent; two types of conduct are important:

  1. Conduct that reveals where effective control over the employee resided, and
  2. The existence of an agreement specifying an employer other than the alleged common employer(s).

In ClearMRI, the Court concluded that Tornado had little involvement and control over Mr. O’Reilly’s employment duties. Mr. O’Reilly’s employment agreement did not list Tornado as his employer. There was no evidence supporting the notion that Tornado had intended to create an employment agreement with Mr. O’Reilly. As a result, the Court of Appeal concluded that Tornado was not a common employer of Mr. O’Reilly.

Conclusion

ClearMRI makes clear that courts will strictly construe the application of common employer liability to guard against conflating the existence of intercorporate relationships as evidence of a common employer relationship.

 

 

On June 24, 2021, the Ontario government announced that the province will enter Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen two days earlier than expected, at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Under Step Two, the following is permitted to operate:

  • essential and other select retail at 50% capacity;
  • non-essential retail at 25% capacity;
  • personal care services where face coverings can be worn at all times and with other restrictions, at 25% capacity; and
  • overnight camps for children, so long as they operate consistently with the safety guidelines provided by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

A number of other restrictions will be eased under Step Two. The province’s announcement along with a full list of permitted activities under Step Two can be found here.

The province may remain in Step Two for 21 days to evaluate any impacts on public health. However, Ontario has already surpassed the vaccination targets required for Step Three. You can find our blog post on the province’s three-step Roadmap to Reopen here.

Employers should continue to pay close attention to the latest public health restrictions to understand how they affect their business. If you have any questions about what the current restrictions mean for your business, please contact our team.

On June 7, 2021, the Government of Ontario filed amendments to several Regulations made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”). The majority of the amendments relate to the reporting of workplace accidents.

Employers in Ontario should review their current incident reporting policies and procedures regarding critical injury or fatalities in the workplace to determine what, if any, changes need to be made to current practices, policies and procedures. To ensure compliance, employers should update existing policies and take steps to implement any necessary changes without delay.

Consolidation of Notice of Death and Critical Injury Requirements

The amendments to the Regulations under OHSA relate to the reporting of workplace accidents and consolidate the notice of death or critical injury requirements that are found in several Regulations into a single Regulation – O. Reg. 420/21: Notices and Reports Under Sections 51 to 53.1 of the Act – Fatalities, Critical Injuries, Occupational Illnesses and Other Incidents.

In particular, the section 51 – 53 notice and/or reporting requirements under OHSA, as may be applicable, have been revoked in the following regulations:

O. Reg. 420/21: Key Highlights

O. Reg. 420/21 applies to all workplaces that are covered by OHSA, with the exception of where a worker is killed, critically injured, disabled from performing their usual work or requires medical attention as a result of collisions on highways as defined under the Highway Traffic Act or Highway 407 Act.

Other key changes include:

  • Defines Critically Injured: Reg. 420/21 revokes Reg. 834: Critical Injury – Defined and replaces the definition of critically injured. “Critically injured” is defined as an injury of a serious nature, that a) places life in jeopardy; b) produces unconsciousness; c) results in a substantial loss of blood; d) involves the fracture of a leg or arm but not a finger or toe; e) involves the amputation of a leg, arm, hand or foot but not a finger or toe; f) consists of burns to a major portion of the body; or g) causes the loss of sight in an eye.
  • Retention of Copy or Written Notice: Section 6 of O. Reg. 420/21 provides that the employer or constructor shall retain a copy of a written notice or report required under sections 51 to 53.1 of OHSA for at least three years after the date the notice or report is made and notices may be sent electronically.
  • Written Reports or Notice: It also prescribes the information that an employer must provide in a written report or written notice of a workplace accident under sections 51 to 53 of OHSA. The Regulation also prescribes additional notice requirements for mines and construction sites.

Changes Applicable to Industrial Establishments

O. Reg. 421/21: Industrial Establishments amends Reg. 851: Industrial Establishments to add a new record-keeping requirement to workplaces that use lifting devices. Where a record is required to be kept, it shall be kept for a) a period of at least one year; or b) such period as is necessary to ensure that at least the two most recent records are kept.

O. Reg. 434/21: Industrial Establishments amends Reg. 851: Industrial Establishments to revoke and replace the pre-start health and safety review provisions.

Key Takeaways

The amendments come into force on July 1, 2021, except for O. Reg. 434/21: Industrial Establishments,  which comes into force on January 1, 2022.

Employers are required to inform the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development if a workplace hazard caused anybody to be killed or critically injured at the workplace. Generally, the notice and reporting requirements will depend on the type of workplace. It is important that employers review the requirements under O. Reg. 420/21 to determine what information must be included when reporting an injury or death at the workplace to the Ministry. It is also crucial to assess critical injuries or deaths at the workplace to determine if the hazard that caused an incident could pose an ongoing risk to worker health and safety.

On June 4, 2021, the Ontario Government announced that the “COVID-19 Period” and the temporary measures introduced by O. Reg. 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (the “Regulation”) under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”) have been extended until September 25, 2021.

The Regulation, which was first introduced in May 2020, provides employers with temporary relief from the notice of termination and severance pay obligations under the ESA during the “COVID-19 Period”. That is, non-union employees who were not performing their duties, working reduced hours, or receiving reduced wages (at the employer’s discretion) are deemed to be on an Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (“IDEL”) during the designated “COVID-19 Period”.

When first introduced, the Regulation defined the “COVID-19 Period” as March 1, 2020 to September 4, 2020. Subsequent Regulations have extended the “COVID-19 Period” to January 2, 2021, then to July 3, 2021, and now again to September 25, 2021. This means that non-union employees who are not performing their duties, working reduced hours, or receiving reduced wages because of the pandemic can continue to be on an IDEL until September 25, 2021, without triggering termination and severance pay obligations under the ESA

Once the extended COVID-19 Period comes to an end on September 25, 2021, the usual ESA rules related to layoffs and constructive dismissal will be re-engaged. Employers who are not able to fully resume operations by that time will need to carefully consider how they will address their ongoing employment issues. Employers should note that this Regulation amends the ESA rules related to layoffs and constructive dismissal. However, it may not displace an employee’s right to pursue a common law claim for constructive dismissal based on a temporary layoff or reduced hours/wages.

In light of recent social justice movements, businesses are increasingly aware of issues pertaining to diversity and inclusion, making it essential for employers to take proactive steps to address inequality in the workplace. Our presenters explore how to set up special programs under human rights legislation, and discuss best practices for advancing substantive equality in Canada.

Click here to watch the video.

In a recent decision, the British Columbia Supreme Court (“BC Court“) ruled that Canada Emergency Response Benefit (“CERB”) payments earned during the notice period would be deducted from wrongful dismissal damages. This decision stands in stark contrast to that recently issued in Ontario, where the Superior Court of Justice (“Ontario Court“) refused to deduct CERB benefits from a damages award. The apparent inconsistency between the cases will have to be resolved in future litigation. In the meantime, employers should consider in each case whether it is appropriate to adopt the approach in Hogan when structuring severance packages.

The BC Decision

In Hogan v. 1187938 B.C. Ltd, 2021 BCSC 1021 (“Hogan“), Mr. Hogan was temporarily laid off and subsequently terminated from his employment with an automotive dealership. Mr. Hogan sued the dealership for constructive dismissal.

The BC Court held that the dealership’s unilateral decision to layoff Mr. Hogan amounted to a constructive dismissal, and as a result, he was entitled to pay in lieu of 22 months of reasonable notice. The dealership argued that all CERB benefits earned by Mr. Hogan during the notice period should be deducted from the damages it was ordered to pay.

The BC Court agreed with the dealership. CERB is not a private insurance benefit for which the employee paid premiums. Further, unlike Employment Insurance benefits, which are subject to repayment following receipt of a severance payment, there is no evidence to suggest that CERB benefits will need to be repaid. Therefore, if Mr. Hogan received both CERB benefits and wrongful dismissal damages during the reasonable notice period, he would end up in a better position than he would have been had he been given advance notice of termination.

Applying the general rule of damages for breach of contract, the BC Court found that Mr. Hogan should be put in the same position he would have been in had the dealership not breached the employment contract. This requires deducting CERB benefits from the damages ultimately awarded.

The Ontario Decision

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice took a seemingly different approach in Iriotakis v. Peninsula Employment Services Limited, 2021 ONSC 998 (“Iriotakis“). In that case, the Ontario Court refused to deduct CERB benefits from wrongful dismissal damages. The Ontario Court looked at the disparity between the CERB benefits the employee earned, and the overall amount of money the employee lost as a result of being terminated. A large portion of the employee’s earnings were based on commissions, most of which he was not entitled to during the reasonable notice period. As a result, the Ontario Court determined that it would not be equitable to reduce the employee’s damages by the CERB benefits he earned during that time. In Iriotakis, the Ontario Court emphasized that their decision was specific to the facts of the particular case—facts which were distinguished from Hogan.

Key Takeaways

To date, Hogan and Iriotakis are the only two decisions in Canada on the issue of whether CERB benefits should be deducted from wrongful dismissal damages. Although the two cases are factually distinct, the principles set out in these cases are difficult to reconcile. The BC Court took a principled approach, ensuring the plaintiff was not put in a better position than he would have been had the defendant complied with its common law obligation to provide him with reasonable notice (or payment in lieu). Conversely, the Ontario Court took a fact-based approach, and decided it would not be fair to deduct CERB benefits from the plaintiff’s damages, given the plaintiff’s limited entitlements from the employer post-termination, relative to his actual pre-termination earnings.

It will be interesting to see how courts across Canada continue to address this issue, particularly in light of the discrepancy between the different approaches taken in British Columbia and Ontario. Given the volume of employment litigation arising from the pandemic, we suspect that there will be many more decisions on this issue.