Just as an employee can resign from a company by giving a notice, an employer may terminate an employee without cause as long as it provides the employee with ample notice.
However, under the Alberta Employment Standards Code, RSA 2000, c E-9 [the Code], Divisions 7 to 7.6, employees are protected to take a certain type of leaves, and employers are prohibited from terminating the employee while on leave. Typically, these include maternity and parental leave, compassionate care leave, death or disappearance of child leave, etc.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Alberta provincial government has placed temporary rules within the Code, more specifically to job-protected leaves. These new workplace rules include the following:
- As of March 5, 2020, all employees who are in quarantine due to COVID-19, are eligible for 14 days of unpaid leave; and
- As of March 17, 2020, employees are entitled to a job-protected leave to care for ill or self-isolated family members, or children affected by school and daycare closures.
The new rules apply to all employees regardless of their length of service, and employees can take this leave more than once. Employees can also take this leave and any other job-protected leave, more than once consecutively, and a medical note is not required to go on leave.
In other words, no employer is allowed to terminate the employment of, or lay off, an employee who is on leave under the above-described circumstances, and the termination of the employee in such cases would constitute a clear breach of the Code.
As such, if you have been terminated or laid off from your employment for taking a leave due to the mandatory or recommended 14-day self-isolation or to provide care for your family member during the 14-day self-isolation, please let us know and we would be more than happy to advise of your rights and entitlements under these circumstances.
Alternatively, if you know someone whose employment has been terminated or affected because she or he went on a COVID-19 related leave as described above, they should be aware that the employer’s decision to terminate their employment or lay them off might not be justified and is in breach of its obligations under the Code.
Written by: Claire Lee