“We need to support the workers affected by this. A lot of people can work from home, but we need to protect the people working the line or on shift work, who don’t have that luxury,” Ford said at Queen’s Park.
“If you are in quarantine because you’re experiencing symptoms, or you’ve been asked to self-isolate, you will not lose your job. If you are a parent and you need to stay home to look after the kids because schools are closed, you will not lose your job.”
Ford’s Progressive Conservative government said it will introduce a new law to change the Employment Standards Act to protect people’s jobs if they have to stay home to quarantine, self-isolate or take care of their children.
Earlier: Premier Doug Ford calls for united response to coronavirus. Story continues after video.
The change will apply retroactively to Jan. 25, 2020, the day that the first presumptive case of COVID-19 was announced in Ontario, and will last for as long as the disease is present in the province, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton said.
“Workers still have responsibilities. They will be required to notify their employer as soon as possible if they need to avail themselves of this leave,” he said.
Employers will not have to pay staff who take time off, McNaughton said, adding that those employees could be covered through federal Employment Insurance.
He called the law the “most progressive legislation anywhere” for protecting jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes will also ban employers from requiring workers to get a doctor’s note in order to take leave, Health Minister Christine Elliott said. That had been law in Ontario until Ford’s government repealed it in 2018. Elliott said the policy reversal is meant to give health-care workers more time to focus on COVID-19.
Finance Minister Rod Phillips said he would postpone the release of the government’s annual budget until as late as the fall. It was supposed to come out next week.
“As Ontario’s finance minister, it’s important that I introduce a financial plan for the province that is as current as possible, given the dynamic situation,” Phillips said. “So instead of a full budget, I will release an economic and fiscal update on March 25, based on our best understanding of the current situation.”
Ford also said Monday he wants the federal government to close the border to all international travellers, although his request would not apply to anyone with Canadian citizenship.
“We need the federal government to tighten up the border, ensure the proper screening and protocols are being enforced.”
Shortly after Ford’s press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would close its borders to anyone who does not hold Canadian citizenship, permanent residency or U.S. citizenship.
Airlines would be barred from carrying people with symptoms, including Canadians, into Canada, the PM added.
The Ontario premier said that people should first use the Ontario government’s new online assessment tool to find out if they have COVID-19, before trying to go to a testing centre.
“My friends, these are unprecedented times.”
He advised against hoarding large quantities of food and household essentials.
“There is plenty of food and household essentials to go around. Be prepared, but let’s make sure there’s enough for everyone,” he said. “I talked to Mr. Irving of Irving Tissue. There’s plenty of toilet paper.”
Ford said his government is prepared to do anything it takes to stop the spread of the disease.
“My friends, these are unprecedented times. But in difficult times like these, we learn a lot. We learn a lot about who we are as a people. We learn a lot about what Ontario’s made of.”