This new leave is available retroactively to March 16, 2020, the date a Public Health Emergency was first declared in Prince Edward Island in relation to COVID-19.
This is an unpaid leave of absence from work, which continues as long as an employee cannot perform their work-duties because of an emergency. This leave only applies when a government agency declares an emergency because of a weather emergency, natural disaster, public health emergency or other event. The leave does not apply to personal emergencies or illnesses that are not part of a declared emergency.
What qualifies as an “emergency”?
The definition of “emergency” is broad and relate to government declared emergencies. This leave does not apply to an employee with a personal emergency that is not part of a declared emergency.
• A state of emergency under the Emergency Measures Act
• A public health emergency under the Public Health Act
• A direction or order of a public health official or the Chief Public Health Officer prevents the employee from attending work
• An emergency or quarantine under the federal Emergencies Act or Quarantine Act
• Additional situations can be defined as an emergency through regulations under the Employment Standards Act
What is emergency leave for?
This leave is for employees who cannot work because of a government declared emergency or they are unable to work because of an order of the Chief Public Health Officer. For example, employees can use this leave if they are required to self-isolate for two weeks following travel out of the province. Employees can also use this leave if they are sick as a result of COVID-19. Employers can also direct an employee to take the leave if they have a concern the employee may have contracted a communicable disease, such as COVID-19, and are concerned the employee may expose other persons in the workplace to the disease.
The leave is also available for employees that must care for a family member that is directly affected by an emergency. To qualify, the employee must be prevented from doing their work and be the only person reasonably available in the circumstance to provide the care.
Using the Leave for Family Reasons
If an employee is unable to return to work because of restrictions that have been placed on schools or childcare centres by the Chief Public Health Office they may be able to use this leave. Employees that are required to provide care to an adult may also qualify. To qualify for the leave for emergencies affecting family members all of the following conditions must be met:
1. A declaration, direction, order or other circumstance directly applies to the family member of the employee
2. The family member of the employee requires care or assistance
3. The employee is the only person reasonably available to provide the care or assistance
4. Providing the care or assistance prevents the employee from performing their work-duties
How long does the leave last?
The emergency leave ends when the employee:
1. is no longer unable to work because of the emergency, or
2. no longer needs to care for a family member affected by the emergency, or
3. when the emergency ends.
If an employee is able to return to work before the Public Health Emergency or State of Emergency are lifted, they are expected to do so. If the employee has concerns regarding returning to work, they should speak with their employer about these concerns and the safety measures that are being taken in the workplace.
The Public Health Emergency is ongoing. Can an employee be asked to come back to work?
Yes, employers are able to have employees return to work if they follow the directions and guidance of the Chief Public Health Office. For example, employees that perform essential services may be required to return to work during an emergency. In some cases, it may be possible for an employee to continue working from home during an emergency. In other cases, employers can put safety measures in place that allow them operate while following the Chief Public Health Office guidelines.
What happens when the leave ends?
When the emergency leave ends, employees are to resume work in the position they held before the leave began. Where their original position no longer exists, the employer is responsible to put the employer into a comparable position, with the same wages and benefits.
How does an employee use this leave?
An employee needs to give their employer notice that they intend to use this leave as soon as possible. If possible,the notice should be given before the leave begins. Where this is not possible, the notice should be given as soon as possible after the emergency leave begins. An employer can request evidence that supports the employee’s need to take the leave. The evidence has to be reasonable in the circumstances and the employer cannot demand an employee produce a medical certificate to use this leave.