Did you know that the Ontario Ministry of Labour has a Q&A
on how to deal with natural disasters in the workplace?
The Q&A, which can be found at the link listed below, covers
issues such as whether or not an employee can be forced to take
vacation days in the event of a natural disaster which prohibits
him or her from working, or whether an employee must be paid
if he or she is told to not come to work during the
Apart from basic issues covered in the Q&A, there are a
number of other things to be aware of in the event of a
natural disaster. The Emergency Management Statute Law
Amendment Act, 2006 (Ontario) permits the Premier and Cabinet to
introduce legislation intended to govern emergencies such as
natural disasters. In addition, the Employment Standards Act,
2000 (Ontario) provides for unpaid emergency leave for
declared emergencies such as natural disasters, which is different
than the standard emergency leave to deal with an ill or injured
While an employer may not wish its employees to come to work in
the event of a natural disaster, there may also be situations where
certain employees are in fact required to work precisely because of
the natural disaster, even if the workplace is under
quarantine. The ESA specifically permits certain employees to
work in those situations, if their skills are required due to an
emergency. Likewise, although employees may rely on the
Occupational Health & Safety Act (Ontario)
("OHSA") to refuse to work if they are
concerned that the condition of their workplace may jeopardize
their health or safety, exemptions to OHSA require certain
essential employees to work notwithstanding those conditions.
In addition to the above, there are a number of other pieces of
provincial and federal legislation which work together to answer
some of the key questions about how to deal with a natural disaster
in the workplace. Whether that disaster relates
to health issues (eg. SARS, H1N1), loss of the workplace
premises or something else, this combined legislation will help
employers determine the appropriate response to disasters, and it
is recommended that employers be proactive about understanding
their obligations so that they are prepared in the event that
To access the Ministry of Labour's Q&A, click
here. For more information about all of the
workplace issues involved in the event of a natural disaster,
a more thorough discussion can be found
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