Labour Standards and COVID-19

Labour Standards and COVID-19

Frequently Asked Questions

 The following is a list of some frequently asked questions that have arisen due to COVID-19. Sample answers are provided as a guide but may not be applicable in all circumstances. For further information please consult the Labour Standards Act online or contact the Labour Standards Division to speak to an officer. We are currently working with reduced capacity and you may notice some delays in our response time and some changes to our regular service. We thank you for your patience.

Toll free: 1-877-563-1063

Email: LabourStandards@gov.nl.ca

  1. Are employers required to pay employees who are quarantined?

The Labour Standards Act (LSA) requires employers to provide seven days of unpaid sick leave for employees who are unable to work due to illness and requires employees to provide a medical note after three days. However, employers are permitted to waive the requirement of the medical note should they feel it is appropriate in these circumstances.

  1. Section 53 of the LSA references “climatic or economic conditions that are beyond the foreseeable control of the employer and that necessitate declaration of redundancy.” Does COVID-19 constitute the application of this clause?

The determination of the applicability of this section is unique to each business and their specific economic circumstance. Employers are advised to seek legal advice with respect to their current situation to determine if the applicable clauses apply in their circumstance.

Should this clause be invoked by an employer and an employee feels the Labour Standards Act and Regulations have not been adhered to correctly, the employee will have the option of contacting the Labour Standards Division to request an investigation and determination.

As the LSA is a complaints driven mechanism, decisions related to this matter will be made on a case by case basis following an investigation.

  1. Does an employer have a right to send employee home because they are showing flu-like symptoms?

The Chief Medical Officer has advised that anyone exhibiting symptoms of being sick is advised to stay at home.

  1. As an employer, am I required to pay my employees for a forced closure due to COVID-19?

The LSA only speaks to the requirement for employers to pay workers for time that has been worked.

  1. If I have to lay off my employees, how long do I have to pay out their remaining wages and vacation pay?

Under Section 33 of the LSA, an employer must the employee any monies owing within one week from the date of termination.

  1. Are my employees entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits because of this closure?

On March 18, 2020, the Government of Canada released a suite of emergency measures as part of an Economic Response Plan. These included several income support programs for workers who are unable to work, or who lose their job or have their hours reduced due to COVID-19. Information on these programs can be found via the Government of Canada’s website (www.canada.ca)

  1. Do notice periods for layoffs still apply?

The LSA outlines the provisions for termination of employment, including the required terms of notice and circumstances where notice is deemed unnecessary. Please refer to the Act for specific guidelines.

 Are employers required to give the appropriate notice if they are planning on laying off their employees?

The LSA outlines the provisions for termination of employment, including the required terms of notice and circumstances where notice is deemed unnecessary. The Act can be viewed online at and Part X will provide directions on questions relating to terminations.

  1. Can a person who has to stay home with their children, because they cannot afford to pay for a babysitter, lose their job if their employer isn’t okay with their reasoning for being off?

Under the Act, an employer can terminate an employee for refusing to obey a lawful instruction by the employer (Section 53.1.a). However, there is a provision in the Act for family responsibility leave (Section 43.11) which allows for a period of seven days unpaid leave which may be applicable in this circumstance.

  1. If an employee doesn’t feel safe working in a location where another employee has just returned from out of the country, can they refuse work without repercussions?

The right to refuse work is covered under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

  1. We have a commissioned salesperson who is required to self-isolate. Since he doesn’t have a regular salary, how should we calculate paying him for his two weeks of self-isolation?

In determining how to calculate pay for a commissioned salesperson there are two main considerations:

If the person is considered an employee of the company who is paid by commission, then the Labour Standards Act would apply. Section 2 (i) of the Act considers commission a wage if the person is an employee of the company. The amount owing can be calculated as:

an average of the past year’s weekly commission if the person has been employed with the company for at least one year, or an average based on the previous four weeks for which they received commission, if they have been employed with the company for less than one year.

If the person is working as an independent contractor for the company, then they would be considered to be self-employed and as such would not be covered under provisions of the Labour Standards Act.