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The federal government has introduced a change to the Employment Insurance Act and a special income-replacement program that will benefit workers affected by SARS. The Ontario government has introduced a change to the Employment Standards Act to protect the jobs of workers absent from work because of SARS. The changes are outlined below for your information.

Most CUPE members will not need to rely on these provisions because they will have paid sick leave or other paid leaves and job protection to cover SARS-related absences. The changes or programs described below apply to workers whose income and employment are not protected by their collective agreements or other SARS-specific arrangements with employers.

CUPE health care locals, through the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, are in regular contact with the Ontario Hospital Association and dealing with issues concerning our members and SARS. Any problems experienced by members in the health care sector should be reported to their CUPE Local President.

Please distribute this information to your locals by fax or e-mail. Thank you.

Employment Insurance

  • The two-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI or UI) special sick leave benefits is being waived for all workers who are off work due to SARS and who do not receive paid sick leave from their employer.
  • This applies to employees who have been placed in quarantine by medical authorities, sent home by their employers or stayed home (put themselves in quarantine) on the recommendation of a public health official, doctor or nurse.
  • No doctor’s certificate is required for the 10-day quarantine period.
  • Anyone who is sick from the start or who develops SARS and those who require EI sick benefits for longer than the quarantine period (10 days) will be required to submit medical certificates.
  • To be eligible for EI sickness benefits, either regular or SARS-related, an employee must have worked 600 insurable hours in the last 52 weeks or since their last EI claim.
  • The application process is the same as the usual EI application process. Those who can’t make a claim during the quarantine period may still apply when they can go out in public again.
  • These provisions are in force as of April 4, 2003 and apply to SARS-related claims submitted on or after March 30, 2003.
  • For more information, go to the HRDC web site: http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/common/news/insur/030404.shtml

Income Relief for SARS-Affected Health Care Workers

  • The federal government has a “special relief program” for workers who deliver or help deliver health-related services, who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI), but who suffered a loss of employment income because of being quarantined, isolated or contracting SARS.
  • Both part-time and full-time workers are eligible. Casual workers may also be eligible.
  • Weekly payments will be $400 per week for full-time workers, and $200 per week for part-time workers, to a maximum of $6,000 for a maximum period of 15 weeks.
  • The program is retroactive to March 30, 2003.
  • Members will need to provide a medical certificate or other documentation that they had SARS or were quarantined, a declaration from the employer that they needed to be in isolation (if this was the case), a declaration from their employer that they work in a health care setting and whether they are full-time or part-time.
  • For more information is 1-800-263-8364, option 3, or go to the web site http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/common/news/dept/030502.shtml

SARS Emergency Leave – Ontario Employment Standards Act

  • The SARS Assistance and Recovery Strategy Act (Bill 1) provides SARS Emergency Leave and protects the jobs of people in Ontario affected by SARS-related personal illness, quarantine or isolation.
  • Employees are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence for SARS-related reasons and to reinstatement when they are able to return to work.
  • Unpaid, job-protected leave applies to employees who are unable to work because they:
  1. are under medical investigation, treatment or supervision related to SARS;
  2. have been told to go into quarantine by a public health official or other medical authority including a doctor or a nurse, Telehealth Ontario, the government of Ontario or the government of Canada;
  3. have been sent home by their employer because of concern about SARS
  4. are providing care or assistance to family members for a SARS-related concern, including school closures.
  • Employees who have put themselves in quarantine without a specific medical order must contact public health officials within the first 2 days of the quarantine and receive a written confirmation.
  • Employees must inform their employers that they are taking a leave under this Act. Employers may require employees to provide reasonable evidence that it is a SARS-related leave.
  • These provisions are in effect beginning March 26th 2003 and ending on a day that will be designated by the government.
  • Employers may still terminate employees because their business or organization has been adversely affected by SARS.
  • Enforcement will be by the Ministry of Labour for non-union employees and through the grievance process for unionized employees.
  • SARS Emergency Leave is in addition to Emergency Leave provided in Section 50 of the Ontario Employment Standards Act (ESA). Any leave taken under Section 50 of the ESA for SARS-related reasons after March 26 will now be deemed to be SARS Emergency Leave.
  • Please contact the Ontario Ministry of Labour for detailed information. http://www.gov.on.ca/LAB