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Bulletin | Covid-19

Daily Workplace Wrap-up on COVID-19 for March 25, 2020

Fasken
Reading Time 8 minute read
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Labour, Employment & Human Rights Bulletin

Below are the key government announcements made on March 25, 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

The Government of Canada announced the passing of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit Act(PDF), which included, among many other things: (1) a new streamlined benefit for workers impacted by COVID-19 that will replace the two proposed benefits announced last week and (2) a new COVID-19 related leave for federally-regulated employees.

The new Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide $2,000 per month, for up to 16 weeks. This benefit will provide income support to eligible workers who:

  • have ceased working for reasons due to COVID-19;
  • are sick or quarantined;
  • are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19;
  • are parents with children who require supervision due to school or daycare closures; or
  • remain employed but are not receiving income due to disruptions to their work caused by COVID-19.

This new benefit is available to full-time, part-time and self-employed workers. An online portal will be released for applications (targeted for April 6, 2020), and individuals should expect to receive payment within 10 days of applying. This benefit will increase the Government of Canada's previously announced $27-billion in direct support for workers to $52-billion.

The new COVID-19 leave introduced into the Canada Labour Code provides an employee who is unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19 a job protected leave of absence for up to 16 weeks.  During a leave, among other things:

  1. the pension, health and disability benefits and the seniority of an employee continue to accumulate. If an employee normally pays premiums for their benefits coverage, they are required to continue to pay them within a reasonable time throughout the leave (and the employer is only required to continue paying the employer share) or else the benefits (and employer contributions) may cease; and
  2. if the employee makes a written request, the employer must keep the employee informed in writing of every employment, promotion or training opportunity that arises during the leave of absence for which the employee is qualified.

The COVID-19 leave is in place until October 1, 2020, at which time it is currently scheduled to be removed from the Canada Labour Code.  A new 16 week quarantine leave is to be added to the Canada Labour Code effective October 1, 2020.  In addition to this change, other amendments have been made to limit an employer's ability to request doctors' notes for other statutory leaves, such as Compassionate Care Leave, Leave for Critical Illness or Medical Leave.

Finally, the Government of Canada announced that it will be imposing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for those returning to Canada under the Quarantine Act. Essential workers will be exempt from this mandatory self-isolation.

Alberta

On March 25, 2020, the government announced support for employees who have experienced a total or significant loss of income as a result of having to self-isolate or care for a dependent who is self-isolated.  Individuals will be entitled to a one-time payment of $1,146 if they:

  • have been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  • are caring for a dependent who is self-isolating; or
  • have otherwise been directed by health authorities to self-isolate; and
  • are not receiving compensation from any other source.

The government also announced that enforcement agencies have now been granted full authority to enforce public health orders and issue fines pursuant to recent amendments to the Procedures Regulation under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act. Fines may be issued to individuals and businesses if they fail to abide by the public health orders. These orders include, but are not limited to:  

  • mandatory self-isolation for 14 days for any individual who has travelled outside of Canada, plus an additional 10 days from the onset of any symptoms should they occur, whichever is longer;
  • mandatory self-isolation for any individual who exhibits COVID-19 symptoms for a minimum of 10 days from the start of their symptoms, or until the symptoms resolve, whichever is longer;
  • mandatory self-isolation for any individual who has been identified as a close contact of a person(s) with COVID-19 for 14 days from the date of last having been exposed to COVID-19, plus an additional 10 days from the onset of any symptoms should they occur, whichever is longer;
  • mass gatherings must be limited to no more than 50 attendees; and
  • access to private entertainment facilities, bars and nightclubs is prohibited.

Individuals or businesses that violate any public health orders may be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 per occurrence.  Courts will also have increased powers to administer fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for more serious violations.

British Columbia

The government issued COVID-19 operational guidelines for employers in mining and smelting and manufacturing industries. These follow previously issued guidelines for employers in the construction industry.

Manitoba

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 25, 2020.

New Brunswick

On March 25, 2020, the government announced that it is implementing restrictions for all travelers arriving in New Brunswick from outside the province. Interprovincial travellers will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Effective 3:00 p.m. A.D.T on March 25, 2020, all unnecessary travel into the province is prohibited. Screening will be implemented at all interprovincial borders, and peace officers have been instructed to turn away visitors that attempt to enter New Brunswick.

Travellers arriving from either Quebec, Prince Edward Island, or Nova Scotia will be stopped by peace officers and must provide identification. Details regarding contact information and intended destinations will be collected and followed for all travellers, including travellers making their way through New Brunswick to enter another province.

Commercial traffic and essential employees, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics and members of the military, will be exempt from these measures so that services may be maintained.

The Canadian Red Cross has created the following hotline related to the $900 income benefit announced on March 24, 2020 for workers or self-employed individuals in New Brunswick who have lost their job due to the declared state of emergency.  The number for the hotline is 1-800-863-6582.

Newfoundland and Labrador

During a March 25, 2020 press conference, the Premier stated that the government is contemplating further penalties for non-compliance with the Chief Medical Officer of Health's ongoing Special Measures Orders. In particular, the government will consider taking away the drivers licences of people who violate self-isolation requirements.

The Premier also announced that the province will permit limited operation of regulated child-care services for children aged 1-13. At present, these child-care services will only be available to children of police, firefighters, paramedics, healthcare workers and other public servants required to continue working. The child care services will be available at no cost.

Nova Scotia

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 25, 2020.

Ontario

The government has launched a toll-free number (1-888-444-3659) called "Stop the Spread Business Information Line" for businesses with inquiries about 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 a minimum of 2 weeks.

Employers are encouraged to seek legal advice to assess whether their business and workplaces fall within the list that are permitted to remain open at this time.

As part of its March 2020 Economic and Fiscal Update, the government also announced the details of Ontario's Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, including the following $17-billion in spending and relief:

  • $3.3 billion for additional healthcare resources, including establishing a dedicated $1-billion COVID-19 contingency fund, $100-million in increased public health funding, $341 million to improve hospital capacity, and $75-million to provide personal protective equipment and critical medical supplies to front-line staff to deal with COVID-19;
  • $3.7-billion for direct relief to people, including a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, energy and tax-related relief, and increased funding for charitable and social services; and
  • $10-billion to support businesses, including through tax-related relief and deferral of WSIB payments for up to 6 months.

Prince Edward Island

Employers may now apply online for the government's previously announced $100 Sobeys gift cards program for employee distribution.

The Chief Public Health Officer urged tighter restrictions for those in self-isolation, recommending that all individuals who are self-isolating must remain on their own property when outside. Those who live in apartment buildings should stay on the property of the building while outside.

Quebec

In his daily press conference, Premier Legault urged employers to comply with the March 24, 2020 Order-in-Council requiring the cessation of non-priority activities and services (save for telework, e.g. work from home) across the province. The government's list of priority activities and services which may continue to operate is being updated daily in response to requests from employers and businesses seeking to be included.

The Premier also announced the government may deliver further economic supports for those not working in the near future.

Saskatchewan

On March 25, 2020, the government identified further businesses and services ("Non-Allowable Business Services") which will be required to cease public-facing services effective March 26, 2020.

While closure of Non-Allowable Business Services prevents certain businesses from providing public-facing services, it does not preclude opportunities for Non-Allowable Business Services to expand into online retailing, or providing pick-up or delivery services.

Examples of Non-Allowable Business Services that will be prohibited from providing public-facing services as of March 26, 2020 include: clothing stores; shoe stores; flower shops; sporting good and adventure stores; vaping supply shops; boats, ATV, or snowmobile retailers; gift, book, or stationary stores; jewelry and accessory stores; toy stores; music, electronic and entertainment stores; pawn shops; and travel agencies. This is in addition to the business services that were ordered closed effective March 23, 2020, which can be viewed here.

The list of critical public services and allowable business services includes: health care and public health workers; law enforcement, public safety and first responders; production, processing and manufacturing and the supporting supply chains; transportation and logistics; government and community services; media and telecommunications; construction including maintenance and repair; select retail services; and banking and financial services. The full list of critical and allowable business services can be viewed here(PDF).

In addition, effective March 26, 2020, public and private gatherings of more than 10 people in one room are prohibited. Exceptions are provided where two metre distancing between people can be maintained, such as: workplaces and meeting settings where people are distributed into multiple rooms or buildings; and retail locations deemed essential.

Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 25, 2020.

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