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Bulletin | Covid-19

Daily Workplace Wrap-up on COVID-19 for March 19, 2020

Fasken
Reading Time 9 minute read
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Labour, Employment & Human Rights Bulletin

The past few days have seen multiple announcements from governments across Canada. To help make things easier for employers, below are the key government announcements made on March 19, 2020 that touch on workplace issues. These changes will undoubtedly affect many of your businesses.

Our overview of previous government announcements, employment analyses and other COVID-19 information is available here.

The Federal Government

There were no new legislative announcements from the federal government on March 19, 2020. However, Prime Minister Trudeau made the following remarks in his now-daily press conference:

  • the Canada-US border restrictions for non-essential travel are expected to come into force some time overnight between Friday, March 20, and Saturday, March 21, 2020;
  • social distancing measures could continue for weeks or months; and
  • the federal government is working to assist Canadians abroad to return home, including by providing financial assistance, and sending text messages about consular services to Canadians overseas.

Parliament is expected to be recalled next week for a brief sitting to pass emergency legislation in response to COVID-19. However, in keeping with the practice of social distancing, not all Members of Parliament will return.

Alberta

In conjunction with the new Employment Standards (COVID-19 Leave) Regulation brought into force on March 17, 2020, the provincial government announced financial relief for certain workers unable to work due to self-isolation. The financial relief will be available for eligible Albertan workers who must self-isolate because they meet the government’s criteria for self-isolation related to COVID-19, and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while self-isolating and/or off work.

The government will provide eligible recipients $573 per week for a maximum of two (2) weeks to bridge the gap until the newly announced federal Emergency Care Benefit begins in April 2020.

Access to these new emergency isolation funds will be available through an online application. Specific criteria for access to the funds, and the application process, should be available next week.

British Columbia

There were no major announcements from the government by 5:00 p.m. EDT.

Manitoba

There were no major announcements from the government by 5:00 p.m. EDT.

New Brunswick

On March 19, 2020, the provincial government declared a state of emergency under section 12 of the Emergency Measures Act (the “Act”).

In accordance with the declaration:

  • all food and beverage businesses will be reduced to take-out and delivery service only;
  • all lounges and special facilities licensed under the Liquor Control Act will stop admitting patrons;
  • all swimming pools, spas, saunas, waterparks, gymnasiums, yoga studios, dance studios, rinks and arenas, tennis courts, soccer and baseball fields, climbing walls, escape rooms, ski hills, golf courses, arcades, amusement centres, pool halls, bowling alleys, casinos, cinemas, libraries, museums, zoos, aquariums, barbers, hair stylists, esthetics service providers, sugar bush operations, and theatres or other live performance venues will stop admitting members of the public; and
  • schools, colleges, universities and private schools must be closed to students. Institutions which have students in residence are permitted to allow them to remain in residence until they can safely return home. Online course delivery may continue.

Several other measures were announced under the declaration, including:

  • all businesses in retail sales must stop admitting patrons, except for: grocery stores; pharmacies; repair garages; post offices; financial and lending institutions; retailers of fuel, hardware and automotive parts; convenience stores; animal and fish feed providers; and corporate and agency stores of NB Liquor and Cannabis NB. All businesses required to stop admitting patrons are permitted to sell online or over the phone and to arrange delivery or pick-up of purchases;
  • owners and managers of all workplaces and organizers of all activities must take every reasonable step to ensure minimal interaction of people within 2 metres of each other and carry out advice to minimize risk as issued by the chief medical officer of health; and
  • all owners and managers of all workplaces must reduce to critical functions and will take every reasonable step required to prevent people who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 from entering the workplace, in accordance with advice issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health or WorkSafeNB. They must also take every reasonable step required to prevent people who have travelled internationally in the previous 14 days from entering workplaces.

All other measures announced under the state of emergency declaration may be viewed here.

Newfoundland and Labrador

As previously reported, the Minister of Health and Community Services declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act (the “Act”). In our previous post we outlined the directives in the declaration, which included a prohibition on gatherings of 50 or more people.

On March 19, 2020, the Minister clarified that the prohibition on gatherings of 50 or more people did not apply for workplaces that employ 50 or more people. However, imposing social distancing and introducing work from home arrangements is encouraged.

Nova Scotia

On March 19, 2020 the government announced that any tenant whose income has been impacted by COVID-19 cannot be evicted by their landlord. It is not clear if this prohibition will apply to commercial tenants.

While the provincial government has not made any announcements regarding programs and measures for those who have lost their employment due to COVID-19, the government indicated that information would be available in the coming days.

Prince Edward Island

The Premier announced that the provincial government expects to roll out financial assistance programs in the future, though details have not been provided as of March 19, 2020.

Further, the government announced the establishment of emergency child care services for essential service workers who have no other alternatives to care for their children at this time. The province is asking all individuals to apply as soon as possible and no later than Friday, March 20, 2020.

Ontario

As expected, the Ontario government enacted changes to the province’s Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) on March 19, 2020.

As a result, the ESA now has new emergency leaves for declared emergencies and infectious disease emergencies, providing employees with the right to an unpaid leave of absence if they will not be performing their duties:

(a) because of an emergency declared under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (a “Declared Emergency Leave”) 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 a Specified Individual listed below, or

(iv) because of such other reasons as the government might later prescribe; or

(b) because of one or more of the following reasons related to a designated infectious disease (an “Infectious Disease Leave”):

(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 a Specified Individual listed below 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) or such other reasons as the government might later prescribed.

For the purposes of the leave entitlements, a “Specified Individual” for an employee is:

  • The employee’s spouse.
  • A parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A child who is under legal guardianship of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A brother, step-brother, sister or step-sister of the employee.
  • A grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law of the employee.
  • A son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • An uncle or aunt of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • A nephew or niece of the employee or the employee’s spouse.
  • The spouse of the employee’s grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.
  • A person who considers the employee to be like a family member, provided the prescribed conditions, if any, are met.
  • Any individual prescribed in the future by the government to be a Specified Individual.

Employers are permitted to ask for reasonable proof of an employee’s entitlement to the new leaves, but are not permitted to require a medical note. In respect of a Declared Emergency Leave, the leave lasts so long as it is required by an employee, or so long as the declared emergency under section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act remains in place, whichever ends earlier. In respect of an Infectious Disease Leave, the government must prescribe an infectious disease for the purposes of the leave. The leave lasts so long as it is required by the employee, or so long is prescribed by the government, whichever ends sooner.

Though the government announced that the legislation would be retroactive to January 2020, the legislation is not. However, the legislation empowers the government to prescribe COVID-19 as a prescribed infectious disease retroactively in order to allow employees an entitlement to an Infectious Disease Leave retroactively. Such action may be forthcoming from the government.

Given a state of emergency was declared earlier this week under section 7.0.2 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, employees may now qualify for a Declared Emergency Leave. We expect the Infectious Disease Leave with respect to COVID-19 to be prescribed by government imminently.

More information regarding these new leaves can be accessed here. Given these new leaves, employers may wish to reconsider options for staffing reductions. Many employees not presently able to work may be entitled to these new leaves of absence, in lieu of other options previously available (e.g., temporary layoffs, etc.).

The government also reminded employers to report all occupational illnesses, including COVID-19, to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four (4) days.

Quebec

The government announced a $2.5 billion program to help businesses with liquidity problems. The government also announced that it will provide loans and loan guarantees of a minimum of $50,000 at very favourable rates to support business. Finally, the government announced that the repayment conditions for loans already granted by Investissement Québec and by local investment funds will be relaxed.

Saskatchewan

There were no major employment-related announcements from the Saskatchewan government on March 19, 2020, as of 5:00 p.m. EDT.

Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon

In the Northwest Territories, the government affirmed that day homes and daycares will remain open until further notice. The government has posted resources for use by the many government employees and managers that are now working from home. The government has also provided guidance for employers and businesses about common workplace-related questions and is updating the information as the situation evolves.

In Nunavut, there were no major employment-related announcements from the government on March 19, 2020, as of 5:00 p.m. EDT.

There were no major employment-related announcements from the Yukon on March 19, 2020, as of 5:00 p.m. EDT.

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