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June 18, 2020

Do I have to return to work?

With many optician and optometry practices re-opening, some opticians are expressing concerns about the fear of contracting COVID-19 while at work. Some OOA members have reached out asking if having this fear is an acceptable reason for not returning, while expecting their employer to keep their job available when they are ready to return. We will attempt to answer this question by referring to the Ontario Employment Standards regarding infectious disease emergency leave. Before we do, we must state that this is general information about employment law as opposed to legal advice or other professional advice. The OOA strongly suggests that you contact the Ontario Employment Standards office or seek advice from a lawyer.

A general fear of returning to work because of the chance of contracting COVID-19 is not an acceptable reason to not return to work once called back by your employer. If you are in a high-risk category because of your age or a medical condition, you do have a valid reason not to return to work. There is a stipulation though. You must provide your employer with a note from your health care provider stating that you should not return to work due to your stated condition. Without this documentation your employer can consider that you have abandoned your job. Not returning to work under these circumstances is not for an indefinite period of time. Six weeks after the government declares the state of emergency over, you will not be covered by your doctor’s note. You will be expected to return to work. If you do not return to work at that time, if requested by your employer, you can be dismissed from your job.

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