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Bulletin | Covid-19

Daily Workplace Wrap-up on COVID-19 for March 24, 2020

Fasken
Reading Time 7 minute read
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Labour, Employment & Human Rights Bulletin

Below are the key government announcements made on March 24, 2020 that touch on workplace issues. These changes will undoubtedly affect many of your businesses. 

Our daily and weekend overviews of previous government announcements, employment analyses and other COVID-19 information is available here

The Federal Government

On March 24, 2020, the House of Commons reconvened to pass emergency legislation to deliver financial aid to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has indicated that the legislation will contain the amendments needed to enact the promised COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

Proceedings were suspended shortly after they began so that the governing and opposition parties could negotiate certain aspects of the proposed legislation, including proposed government spending powers. As of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T., the House of Commons proceedings had not resumed, and no final form of legislation was announced.

Alberta

No major government updates as of 5:00 pm E.D.T. on March 24, 2020.

British Columbia

No major government updates as of 5:00 pm E.D.T. on March 24, 2020.

Manitoba

Public health officials urged Manitobans to avoid any non-essential travel, including:

  • international travel and travel within Canada; and
  • recreational, tourist or non-essential personal travel.

Anyone that returns from international or domestic travel is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

The above recommendation does not include:

  • commercial transportation of goods and services;
  • health care workers traveling to and from neighbouring jurisdictions for work; or
  • normal personal travel in border communities to visit cottages.

New Brunswick

On March 24, 2020, the government announced that a one-time income benefit of $900 will be provided to workers or self-employed individuals in New Brunswick who have lost their job due to the declared state of emergency. This benefit will be administered through the Red Cross with the purpose of providing assistance to those who have lost their employment or closed their business while they wait to receive expected and impending federal benefits. Additional details are to be released in the coming days.

Newfoundland and Labrador

On March 24, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a Special Measures Order (Amendment Order)(PDF), which requires all private health clinics to immediately close, with the exception of physician and nurse practitioner services. The list of private health services that must close includes, but is not limited to:

  • dentists;
  • optometrists;
  • physiotherapists;
  • dieticians;
  • psychologists;
  • registered massage therapists;
  • osteopaths;
  • dental hygienists;
  • acupuncturists; and
  • audiologists.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health stated that private health clinics may temporarily open to provide urgent or emergency services.

The above-listed mandated closures are in addition to the extensive list of businesses that have already been ordered to close under the March 23, 2020 Special Measures Order(PDF). The list of businesses that have been ordered to close is in yesterday's post.

While the government has not yet ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, the Premier advised that all non-essential services should voluntarily close to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Nova Scotia

On March 24, 2020, the provincial Medical Officer of Health issued an order (PDF) under the Health Protection Act that regulated health professionals, with the exception of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and paramedics, can only provide:

  • face-to-face service for emergency or urgent cases; or
  • virtual care.

The government further clarified that businesses that are "essential services" are exempt from the current prohibition against gatherings of more than 5 people. The government indicated that a list of the province's "essential services" would be available online shortly.

Ontario

On March 23, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced a major development in the management of the COVID-19 crisis: the immediate shut down of all non-essential services in Ontario effective Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. E.D.T., for at least two weeks.

A list of businesses the government indicates will be permitted to remain open was released Monday evening, and made available on the government's website.  The actual legal regulation governing the provincial shutdown is here(PDF).

While workplaces that are non-essential must close their doors during the shutdown period, employers may still have employees work remotely (i.e., work from home).

On March 24, 2020, the government announced the enactment of a new emergency order that permits long-term care homes to engage in redeployment, staffing and scheduling as needed in order to deal with COVID-19.  Accordingly to a government news release, "[under] this temporary order long-term care homes will be able to respond to, prevent and alleviate an outbreak of COVID-19 by carrying out measures such as:

  • redeploying staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the health service provider;
  • changing the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
  • changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
  • deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
  • employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
  • using volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining unit work; and
  • providing appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan."

The Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board ("WSIB") has provided guidance to employers and employees about claims by employees that they have contracted COVID-19 at work and whether such claims will be compensable.  The WSIB published an Adjudicative Approach Document (PDF) outlining how it will adjudicate claims for COVID-19, as well as a FAQ Page about COVID-19 issues.   The WSIB indicates that claims related to COVID-19 will need to include a confirmed diagnosis, and will need to show workplace exposure made a significant contribution to the worker's illness.

Prince Edward Island

The government announced a partnership with Sobeys Inc. to provide gift cards to individuals laid off due to the pandemic. An application form will be required from the employer, who will then distribute the cards to affected employees. Applications will be available on March 25, 2020.

Further, the government introduced three new programs: an Emergency Income Relief Fund for the self-employed, Emergency Working Capital Financing for small businesses and an Emergency Relief Worker Assistance Program.

Quebec

In his daily press conference, Premier Legault did not provide extensive details regarding the shutdown of non-priority services and activities in the province effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 25, 2020.

The province's list of priority services and activities which are permitted to remain open following the shutdown has undergone updates since originally released during the evening of March 23, 2020.  Some employers on the list of priority services and activities are required to operate at only minimal essential levels. Businesses have been asked to file for an exemption from the shutdown order if they think they should be added on the list.  

Premier Legault confirmed in his press conference that he does not want to impose penalties for those not conforming to the shutdown rules, but that the government may do so if the rules are not followed.

Saskatchewan

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 24, 2020.

Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon

In Nunavut, the government announced that all of its buildings will be closed to the public as of March 24, 2020.

In addition, the government is implementing the following new public health measures and restrictions:

  • effective March 24, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. local time, only residents and critical workers will be allowed to travel into the territory. Everyone, except critical workers with written permission from the Chief Public Health Officer, must be in a mandatory 14 day isolation period in the south before they can board a plane to Nunavut. This includes residents and students;
  • all public gatherings are banned;
  • all playgrounds and municipal parks are closed; and
  • anyone entering the territory is required to self-isolate.

While there were some concerns about potential disruptions to electricity services in the Northwest Territories due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government confirmed that the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) signed a mutual aid agreement through the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA), allowing NTPC to request aid from other utilities across Canada in the event additional resources are required to maintain or restore power.

The Commissioner of the Northwest Territories ordered the closure of the Highway 7 border crossing (the Liard Highway) in order to support the other travel restrictions imposed by the Chief Public Health Officer.

In the Yukon, there were no major employment-related announcements from the government on March 24, 2020 as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T.

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