COVID-19 Update: Information for Employers

Updated as of June 3, 2020

Over the last few weeks, we have received numerous questions about how COVID-19 is impacting the Plan. As a result, we have compiled these Frequently Asked Questions. Given the continually changing circumstances, we will update this page frequently with new information as it becomes available.

Frequently Asked Employer Questions

Employer Bulletin: Information on Absences from Work Related to COVID-19

We understand that employers are facing significant challenges as a result of the COVID-19 situation which may impact their workforces. This update is intended to assist employers in understanding some of the impacts that different types of employee absences may have from an OMERS Plan perspective.* Please note that this update reflects the information available to OMERS as of March 30.

New (as of April 27, 2020): The information below is now available as an e-Learning module that you can access here.

*This update only relates to the OMERS Primary Pension Plan, and not the retirement compensation arrangement.

Emergency Leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000

The government recently amended some of the leaves of absence provisions in the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”). A new unpaid leave of absence, Emergency Leave: Declared Emergencies and Infectious Disease Emergencies (“Emergency Leave”), replaced the previous Declared Emergency leave. You can access the new ESA provisions on the government’s e-laws website. For ease of reference, the ESA provisions that set out the situations in which an employee is entitled to an Emergency Leave are reproduced in the Appendix to this note.

In light of the COVID-19 situation, some examples of Emergency Leave might include:

  • an employee who cannot come to work due to their business being ordered to close as a result of the emergency recently declared pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act; or
  • an employee who cannot come to work because they are in quarantine, pursuant to the designation of COVID-19 as an infectious disease by regulation (retroactive to January 25, 2020).

Please note that the determination of whether an employee is eligible for a leave of absence without pay under the Emergency Leave provisions is an employment decision. OMERS does not make this determination. Employers should consider seeking legal advice for any questions in this area.

Emergency Leave for OMERS Purposes

Under the terms of the OMERS Plan, similar to most other ESA protected leaves (e.g., pregnancy or parental leave), a member may purchase a period of Emergency Leave by paying one times the cost of contributions, based on the member’s deemed earnings, before the end of the year following the year in which the Emergency Leave ends.

If the member elects to purchase this leave within the time period noted above, the employer would match the contributions. If the member does not purchase the leave and wishes to do so at a future date, the member may buy back the leave (there would be no employer contributions in this case). Note that the cost of a buy back is calculated differently.

Any Emergency Leave period that is not purchased by the member would be considered eligible service (i.e., to determine when a member is eligible for an unreduced pension).

Other Authorized Leave

Employers sometimes authorize an employee to take an unpaid leave of absence, which is not provided for under the ESA (“Authorized Leave”). An Authorized Leave might include, for example, a personal leave of absence.

Under the terms of the OMERS Plan, an OMERS member is permitted to purchase a period of Authorized Leave by paying two times the cost of contributions, based on the member’s deemed earnings. In other words, if the member elects to purchase this leave, the employer would not be required to match the contributions.

Again, the member would have until the end of the year following the year in which the Authorized Leave ends to make this purchase.

If the member does not purchase this leave and wishes to do so at a future date, the member may buy back the leave (there would be no employer contributions). Note that the cost of a buy back is calculated differently.

Any Authorized Leave period that is not purchased by the member would not be considered eligible service (i.e., to determine when a member is eligible for an unreduced pension).

Temporary Layoff

Employers sometimes lay off employees for a period which lasts as long as recall rights exist or the employer reasonably expects to recall the member (“Temporary Layoff”). Employers who are considering placing employees on Temporary Layoff may wish to consider whether those employees are entitled to a leave of absence without pay under the Emergency Leave provisions in the ESA. To that end, employers may wish to seek legal advice.

Under the terms of the OMERS Plan, a member is not permitted to purchase or buy back a period of Temporary Layoff. Any period of Temporary Layoff would not be considered eligible service.

Summary

The following chart provides a summary of the impacts discussed above for Emergency Leave, Authorized Leave and Temporary Layoff:

Period of absence Emergency Leave Authorized Leave Temporary Layoff
Purchasable by member? Yes Yes No
Cost of purchase for member? Member pays one times the cost of contributions, based on the member’s deemed earnings Member pays two times the cost of contributions, based on the member’s deemed earnings N/A
If purchased, are employer contributions required? Yes No N/A
If not purchased, can the period be purchased as a buy-back at a future date by member? Yes Yes No

OMERS will continue to monitor the COVID-19 developments and consider impacts on OMERS members and employers. If you have any additional questions, please contact Employer Services at the number below, email at employerservices@omers.com.
 
Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Phone: +1 416.350.6750
Toll-free: +1 833.884.0389
 

Appendix

Excerpt from the Employment Standards Act, 2000: Leave of absence without pay for declared emergencies and infectious disease emergencies.

Leave of absence without pay

(1.1) An employee is entitled to a leave of absence without pay if the employee will not be performing the duties of his or her position,

(a) because of an emergency declared under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and,

(i) because of an order that applies to him or her made under section 7.0.2 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act,
(ii) because of an order that applies to him or her made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act,
(iii) because he or she is needed to provide care or assistance to an individual referred to in subsection (8), or
(iv) because of such other reasons as may be prescribed; or

(b) because of one or more of the following reasons related to a designated infectious disease:

(i) The employee is under individual medical investigation, supervision or treatment related to the designated infectious disease.
(ii) The employee is acting in accordance with an order under section 22 or 35 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act that relates to the designated infectious disease.
(iii) The employee is in quarantine or isolation or is subject to a control measure (which may include, but is not limited to, self-isolation), and the quarantine, isolation or control measure was implemented as a result of information or directions related to the designated infectious disease issued to the public, in whole or in part, or to one or more individuals, by a public health official, a qualified health practitioner, Telehealth Ontario, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Canada, a municipal council or a board of health, whether through print, electronic, broadcast or other means.
(iv) The employee is under a direction given by his or her employer in response to a concern of the employer that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to the designated infectious disease.
(v) The employee is providing care or support to an individual referred to in subsection (8) because of a matter related to the designated infectious disease that concerns that individual, including, but not limited to, school or day care closures.
(vi) The employee is directly affected by travel restrictions related to the designated infectious disease and, under the circumstances, cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to Ontario.
(vii) Such other reasons as may be prescribed. 2020, c. 3, s. 4 (1).