From now on, sanctions cannot be imposed on employees who must isolate themselves to prevent the spread of COVID-19

23 September 2020


On September 9th, the Québec government adopted an Order in Council stating that no employer may "dismiss, suspend or transfer an employee (…), practice discrimination or take reprisals against an employee or impose any other sanction upon that employee if he or she is absent from work for a maximum period of 14 continuous days and the absence is due to the fact that the employee self-isolates pursuant to a guidance or order issued by a public health authority and the employee is not able to work".[1]

The purpose of this new Order in Council is therefore to protect the employment relationship of any employee who must be absent from work because of COVID-19 and to protect that employee from any disciplinary measures related to this absence. This protected reason for absence has been added to the statutory leaves provided in the Act respecting labour standards[2] (ARLS) which, through section 122 of the ARLS, protects employees from reprisals when they exercise a right arising from the application of this Act.

This protection applies only to employees covered by the ARLS. In addition, this absence cannot exceed 14 days and is unpaid. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's economic stimulus package states that (10) sick days will be paid to employees who are forced to isolate themselves for reasons related to the new coronavirus. The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) provides that workers who would not normally be entitled to paid sick leave and who experience symptoms of COVID-19 that require them to isolate themselves may receive $500 per week for two weeks. On August 20, the federal government announced that the CRSB will come into effect on September 27, 2020, and will be available for a period of one year.

It is important to remember that employers have an obligation to take all necessary measures to protect the health of their workers and to ensure their safety and physical well-being, as set out in section 51 of the Act respecting occupational health and safety (AOHS). For their part, workers must take the necessary measures to protect their health, safety or physical well-being and ensure that they do not endanger the health, safety or physical well-being of other persons in the workplace.[3] It should be noted that employees with symptoms must be vigilant and contact their employer as soon as possible to inform them of their state of health.

We invite you to contact our Labour and Employment Law team for any questions related to the application or interpretation of this new Order in Council protecting employees who are in isolation.

[1] Order in Council 943-2020 relating to the ordering of measures to protect the health of the population amid the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

[2] CQLR, c. N-1.1.

[3] S. 49 AOHS.

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