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Employee Rights FAQs During COVID-19

Employment Insurance (EI)

Am I eligible for EI sickness benefits while being quarantined?

Yes. EI sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine. EI applications for persons under quarantine are being processed on a priority basis.

The one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits will be waived for new claimants who are quarantines so you can be paid for the first week of your claim. A new dedicated toll-free number has been established to support inquiries related to waiving the EI sickness benefits waiting period. Telephone:1-833-381-2725 / TTY: 1-800-529-3742.

Am I eligible for EI sickness benefits while “self-isolating”?

If you are self-isolating in accordance with public health guidance, you will be eligible for EI sickness benefits. However, voluntary self-isolation will not trigger the relaxed EI rules.

Temporary Lay-off and Work Sharing Program

My employer is applying for the Work-Sharing with the government, what is it and how does it work?

Work-sharing is a adjustment program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in business that is beyond the control of the employer. The program provides income support to eligible employees who agree to work a temporarily reduced work week. It is a three-party agreement involving the employer, you (the employee) and Service Canada.

Can I be temporarily laid off by my employer?

Non-union employees

Generally, if you a non-union employee you may only be laid off temporarily if your employment contract provides for the possibility of temporary lay-off. In most circumstances, temporary layoffs are uncommon and are not standard in the employment contract. In those case, a temporary layoff without the employee’s agreement may trigger a constructive dismissal. If you are a non-union employee, you are strongly advised to obtain legal advice if you are being temporarily laid-off.

Union employees

Lay-off provisions are a common feature of collective bargaining agreements and the conditions of lay-off and/or recall for unionized employees will depend upon the language of your collective bargaining agreement.

Work Refusal and Termination

Can I refuse to work because I am afraid of contracting COVID-19 at my workplace?

Your employer is obligated to take reasonable care to protect the health and safety of employees under occupational health and safety legislation. If you have reason to believe that there is a dangerous condition at your workplace or your duties present a danger to your health and safety (which is not an inherent or normal condition of your work), you may have the right to refuse to attend work or perform certain duties.

What if I have COVID-19 and cannot work?

If you have contracted COVID-19 and are unable to work, your employer must grant any applicable legislative leave to you, in addition to meeting any sick leave obligations outlined in your employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement.

Can I be fired if I contract COVID-19?

No. Your employer may not terminate you or otherwise discriminate against you due to physical disability (which includes certain illnesses) under human rights legislation.

For more information please contact us at or 604.900.8082


NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on the Queenstone Law website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action, based upon this information. We would be pleased to discuss any specific legal concerns you may have.

Although we attempt to keep the information on our site accurate and up-to-date, due to the ever changing nature of the law, as well as, the speed at which new cases are released, we cannot always guarantee that the content is fully up to date or remains completely accurate.

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