The COVID-19 pandemic raises significant workplace issues. This fact sheet provides information on the amendments to the Canada Labour Code under Part 10 of the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act. The Canada Labour Code applies to federally-regulated workplaces.

What is the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act?

The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act (the Act) is federal legislation enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act implements various measures to “protect Canadians’ health and safety and stabilize the Canadian economy.”

The Act received Royal Assent on March 25, 2020.

There are 17 Parts to the Act. This fact sheet is limited to providing information on Part 10 of the Act.

Amendments to the Canada Labour Code

Part 10 of the Act creates a regime for a leave related to COVID-19 under the Canda Labour Code (Code). This regime is a temporary measure which remains in force until October 1, 2020. Following that date, it will be replaced by quarantine leave under the medical leave regime.

The Act adds Division XIII.01 to the Code.  Division XIII.01 outlines what the new leave is and how it works.

Who does the new leave apply to? 

The new leave provisions under Canada Labour Code apply to employees in federally regulated workplaces.

What is Leave related to COVID-19?

Section 239.01(1) provides that every federally-regulated employee who is “unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19” is entitled to take a protected unpaid leave of absence. This leave of absence may be for a period of up to 16 weeks, or another number of weeks if fixed by regulation.

How does the leave work? 

Requirements for Written Notice:

An employee intending to take the COVID-19 leave, must, as soon as possible, provide written notice to their employer. The written notice must detail the reason for the leave and the length of the leave. It is not yet clear what qualifies as a “reason related to COVID-19.” However, given the broad language used in section 239.01(1), reasons would likely encompass a host of COVID-19 related issues, such as when an individual is required to self-isolate.

If the length of COVID-19 leave changes, the employee must, as soon as possible, give written notice to their employer.

Furthermore, an employer may require an employee to provide a written declaration in support of reasons for leave or change in length of COVID-19 leave.

Entitlement to Employment Opportunities:

An employee is entitled, on written request, to be informed of every employment, promotion or training opportunity for which the employee is qualified that arises while the employee is on COVID-19 leave. The employer upon receiving such written request, must provide the information to the employee.

Protection from Reprisal:

The Employer is prohibited from taking action against an employee for exercising or intending to exercise their entitlement to COVID-19 leave.

Prohibited actions include: dismissal suspension, layoff, demotion and discipline.

Additionally, the employer cannot factor an employee’s intention to use or use of COVID-19 leave into decisions regarding promotion and training of the employee.

Exception: the Employer may reassign an employee if upon return from their COVID-19 leave of absence they are unable to do the work they performed prior to their absence.

Continuation of Benefits and Seniority

An employee’s pension, health and disability benefits and seniority continues during their COVID-19 leave, subject to the exceptions below.

Where employees are required to make contributions to the benefits referred to above they have two options:

(1) If they want to remain entitled to these benefits while on COVID-19 leave – they must pay those contributions within a reasonable time.

(2) If they do not want to pay contributions while on COVID-19 leave, they must notify their employer of their intention to discontinue contributions. Notification should be at the start of the leave or within a reasonable time after.

Employers who pay contributions to the above benefits must continue to pay at least the same proportion as when the employee was not on COVID-19 leave.

Exception: the employer does not have to continue to pay contributions where an employee does not pay their contributions within a reasonable time.

Employees should be aware if contributions are not paid pension, health and disability benefits do not accumulate during the leave of absence.

Continuous Employment

For the purposes of calculating other benefits not referred to above, the employee’s work is deemed to be continuous with employment before the absence.


An employee may interrupt their vacation to take COVID-19 leave. An employee may also postpone their vacation until after the day their COVID-19 leave ends.

Parental Leave

Parental leave may be extended by COVID-19 Leave.

 A brief note on certificates by medical practitioners: 

The Act also amends the Code by adding section 168.1.

This amendment allows employees to take Compassionate Care Leave, Leave related to Critical Illness or Medical Leave without having to provide a certificate issued by health care practitioners.

Section 168.1 will remain in force until September 30, 2020.

For further information about workplace issues relating to COVID-19, contact us at (902) 423-7777, toll-free at 1-800-565-4529, or [email protected].

* This information is not legal advice.  The answers to these questions will vary, depending on the circumstances of each case. Consult legal counsel for information and advice relevant to your individual circumstances.