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Coronavirus: Ontario government plans bill to help workers affected by pandemic

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TORONTO — The Ontario government announced Sunday that it was drafting legislation to ban employers from requiring sick notes for those in self-isolation or quarantine as it introduced further measures meant to stem the spread of COVID-19.

The bill would include a number of measures aimed at helping workers affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, a spokeswoman for Premier Doug Ford said.

Under the legislation, employers would have to ensure protected leave for workers who have to take unpaid leave to be in self-isolation or quarantine.

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“Our government is protecting workers so they can focus on their own health, and the health of their families and communities, without fear of losing their jobs,” Ford said in a statement Sunday.

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Shortly after coming to office in 2018, Ford’s government repealed labour legislation introduced by the previous government that gave workers two paid sick days a year and banned the practice of requiring sick notes.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who has been calling for such measures to be reinstated, said the official opposition has been in touch with the government and is helping to draft and pass the emergency legislation to help Ontarians cope with the economic impact of COVID-19.

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“The NDP will be working hard to ensure the emergency legislation helps people take time off work without losing a paycheque,” Horwath said in a written statement.

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“We want to ensure no one faces consequences for missing a rent or mortgage payment through no fault of their own.”

The premier’s office did not immediately say when the bill would come before the legislature or if an emergency session would be called.

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The province also asked Sunday for hospitals to cancel all non-emergency procedures as they prepare for an influx of COVID-19 patients.

“The province is requesting that all hospitals further implement pandemic plans by carefully ramping down elective surgeries and other non-emergent clinical activity,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

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“In doing so, hospitals can preserve capacity as cases of COVID-19 continue to grow in Ontario.”

Meanwhile, the province’s Superior Court of Justice announced that starting Tuesday, it would suspend all operations except for those that are most urgent. It said all trials would be adjourned, unless ordered otherwise.

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READ MORE: Ontario asking hospitals to ramp down elective surgeries in preparation for COVID-19

In-progress jury trials were to receive direction from the presiding judge on Monday. Judicial pretrials, meantime, would be handled by phone and documents are to be filed to the trial co-ordinator electronically.

And the Ontario Court of Justice said that as of Monday, those who were scheduled to appear in the lower court need not show up unless the matter is “an in-custody or urgent criminal matter or an urgent family matter.”

The number of cases continued to climb across Canada on Sunday, with Ontario reporting 42 new cases, bringing the provincial tally to at least 145.

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