I’m worried about going back to work because of COVID-19. What can I do?

Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)

If you miss work because you are at greater risk of getting COVID-19, you might be able to get the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). CRSB gives $500 a week and it's available until at least May 7, 2022. You can learn more about it in the question: Who can get the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)?

Many employers in Ontario have re-opened their workplaces. And employees might be worried about going back because of the risk of catching COVID-19 while they're at work.

This might apply to you if you have a weak or compromised immune system.

Normally, your boss can expect you come to work. It probably won't be enough to say that you want to stay home because you're afraid of catching COVID-19. But there are some situations where you can stay home.

If you’re at extra risk

Some people are at extra risk from COVID-19 if they return to the workplace. For example, you might be at extra risk if you have a medical condition that makes you more vulnerable, like diabetes or a heart condition.

If this is your situation, there are 2 things you can do:

Ask for accommodation

The Ontario Human Rights Code says that employers can't discriminate against employees for reasons such as their gender, race, family status, or .

It might be if your workplace puts you at greater risk of getting COVID-19 because of a disability you have. For example, it might be discrimination if you have a weakened immune system and your employer knows about your disability but still forces you to come to the office.

Your employer can ask for medical documents that prove you have a disability.

To avoid discriminating against you, your employer may have to offer different working conditions that don't put you at risk. This is called “accommodation” and might include:

  • letting you work from home
  • letting you work different hours, or
  • giving you a safe place where there's a lower risk of you getting infected.

Your employer has to you only to the point of . This means that they don't have to accommodate you if it would be too difficult. For example, if there's no work that you can do from home, they don't have to let you do this.

Get help when you ask for accommodation

This can be a complicated area of law. If you're thinking about asking for accommodation, you might want to get more information first.

You can also contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for free legal advice and information. They can help you figure out:

  • if your situation is discrimination
  • if there are things you can do to convince your employer to accommodate you
  • if you can make a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
  • what evidence you need to help prove that your employer is discriminating against you

Take the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave

If you don't want to ask for accommodation or you can't be accommodated because of the job you do, your other option is to take the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL).

If you want to take IDEL, you need to tell your employer as soon as possible.

If you're taking the leave because you have a condition that makes you more vulnerable to COVID-19, you don't need to give your employer a medical note.

But your employer can ask for “reasonable” proof. So you'll probably have to give them some details about why you need the leave.

You can get up to 3 paid days off with IDEL. There's no limit on the number of unpaid days for this leave. You can take unpaid leave for as long as you need it. This means that you can take it only until the reason for the leave ends. For example, if your immune system is compromised because of medical treatments and you finish all the treatments, you'll have to go back to work once it is safe to do so.

The paid days are available until July 31, 2022. The government has not said when the unpaid leave will stop being available.

Other options

If you have vacation time, you may be able to use this before using the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. And if you have paid sick days, you might be able to use them, depending on your employer's sick leave policy.

Even if these other options are available to you, you don't have to use them. You can choose to take the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave if you prefer.

Whatever option you choose, be sure to tell your employer as soon as possible.

Get legal help

If you don't feel safe at work, and your employer is not letting you work from home, you may want to get legal help.

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