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Bulletin | Covid-19

Daily Workplace Wrap-up on COVID-19 for March 26, 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 26, 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 are available here

The Federal Government

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 26, 2020.

Alberta

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 26, 2020.

British Columbia

The government  published a list of essential services in British Columbia.

According to the government, publication of this list does not order the closure of businesses not defined as "essential."

Non-essential services may continue to operate (if they have not previously been ordered to close, such as bars and restaurants(PDF)), provided the business adheres to the orders of the Provincial Health Officer, which includes social distancing of 1-2 metres between people on the premises.

The government ordered (PDF) that employers operating Long Term Care Facilities, Private Hospitals, and Assisted Living Residences restrict the movement of employees between facilities. Generally, employees may be only assigned to work at and from one facility.  This requirement does not currently include employees of contractors, or subcontractors, at the facility.

The Workers Compensation Board has postponed premium deadlines for employers and personal optional protection coverage holders until June 30, 2020.

Manitoba

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 26, 2020.

New Brunswick

On March 26, 2020, the government announced additional economic support measures for residents and business owners, in addition to its previously announced $900 income-benefit for workers. This is expected to be available before the end of March and end on April 30, 2020. 

The government also confirmed $50-million in COVID-19 expenditures and relief, including:

(a) deferring WorkSafeNB assessment premiums for 3 months;

(b) deferring interest and principle payments on existing loans from the provincial government;

(c) up to $25-million in working capital for small business owners. These businesses will be eligible for up to $200,000 in loans. Principal payment will not need to be made for up to 12 months; and

(d) up to $25-million in working capital for medium to large-sized employer. These businesses can apply directly to Opportunities NB for more than $200,000 in working capital to help manage the effects of COVID-19 on their business.

Further details on assistance for businesses are online here and further details will be released in the coming days.

Finally, the government announced forthcoming legislative and regulatory amendments that will provide a new job-protected leave of absence for up to 15 weeks. This leave will be available for workers who either have COVID-19 or are caring for someone with the virus.

Newfoundland and Labrador

On March 26, 2020, the House of Assembly convened for an urgent sitting of the legislature to discuss Bill 33 (the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act).

The Bill would amend the Labour Standards Act to entitle an employee to an unpaid job-protected leave of absence where the employee cannot perform the duties of his or her position due to one or more of the following reasons related to a designated communicable disease:

  • the employee is under individual medical investigation, supervision or treatment related to a designated communicable disease;
  • the employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act related to a designated communicable disease;
  • the employee is in isolation or quarantine or is subject to a control measure, including self-isolation, and the quarantine, isolation or control measure was implemented as a result of information or directions related to a designated communicable disease issued to the public by the Chief Medical Officer of Health or the government of the province whether through print, electronic, broadcast or other means;
  • 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 a designated communicable disease;
  • the employee is providing care or support to a specified individual for a reason related to a designated communicable disease that concerns that individual, including a school or child care service closure; or
  • the employee is directly affected by travel restrictions related to a designated communicable disease and, under the circumstances, cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province.

An employee will not be required to provide a medical note or certificate in relation to the leave of absence.

As of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 26, 2020, the Bill had not progressed through the House of Assembly.

In addition, the Premier stated in a press conference that all government contracts with businesses will continue to be honoured for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. He further stated that all businesses and contractors with existing contracts with government are required to continue to pay their employees who were employed at the time the public health emergency was declared in the province.

On March 25, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a Special Measures Order (Revised Exemption Order). The Revised Exemption Order adds to the list of workers who are exempt from the 14 day self-isolation requirement following arrival in Newfoundland and Labrador from outside of the province. Specifically, asymptomatic health care workers essential to the provision of critical health care in the province, including organ retrieval teams, medical flight specialists, crew on any plane serving as an air ambulance or medivac operation are exempted from the requirement to self-isolate only while these workers are travelling to and from their home and place of work in the province. When not working, these workers must self-isolate while in the province.

Nova Scotia

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 26, 2020.

Ontario

As part of its Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19, the government announced $1.9-billion in financial relief for businesses covered by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board ("WSIB") workplace insurance program. 

The government announced that all employers will be permitted to defer premium payments for six months, until August 31, 2020.  All employers covered by the WSIB's workplace insurance are automatically eligible for this relief.  Employers are not required to opt in or apply to receive this benefit.  Employers who continue to operate may choose whether to continue to report and pay as usual, or to report premiums and defer payment until later.

In addition, it was announced that the WSIB will:

  • stop the accrual of interest on all outstanding premium payments;
  • not charge penalties during the 6-month deferral period;
  • not impose negative consequences for businesses who defer premium reporting and payments.

These measures will not impact coverage for workers covered by WSIB's insurance program.  The WSIB will continue to fully cover workers at eligible workplaces.

The government also announced that employers will have reduced costs through a new rate framework and the elimination of the unfunded liability charge.

More information about the relief package can be found on the WSIB's FAQ page

Prince Edward Island

No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 26, 2020.

Quebec

On March 26, 2020 the government announced discussions with labour unions to increase the remuneration of beneficiary attendants.

The Premier and Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Solidarity announced the establishment of a web portal to encourage citizens to volunteer for organizations that are short of volunteers (e.g., food banks).  Quebecers who are symptom-free, under 70 years of age and have time available will be able to register to participate and be connected to organizations in need of volunteer assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Legault also indicated that the provincial government will offer assistance in the event individuals are not covered by the recently announced Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Saskatchewan

On March 26, 2020, the government amended its public health order (PDF) to include the limiting of indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people, except for families in the same household, and where critical public and business services are conducted. 

In the case of critical public and business services where two-metre distancing is not possible, other measures such as self-monitoring or supervision by Infection Prevention and Control Officers, or certain Occupational Health and Safety measures in the workplace, will be allowed. 

The amended order (PDF) also states that all businesses not identified as critical public services (PDF) must close, save for telework (work from home). 

Additionally, effective March 26, 2020, food service, which is already restricted to take-out, drive through, delivery, and charitable food service, is only permitted where food is dispensed by an establishment's staff.  Customer self-service of open prepared food products (e.g. salad bars, soup and hot food items at convenience stores) is no longer permitted.

Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon

The Government of the Yukon announced that it has established a COVID-19 Business Advisory Council to represent the needs of the business community before the Department of Economic Development. Additional members may join the council at a later date. For more information, see the announcement here.

In Nunavut, the travel ban announced on March 24, 2020 is now in effect, and the government provided additional details with respect to the requirements to enter the territory for returning residents and critical workers. Further service updates from various government departments can be found here.

In the Northwest Territories, the Minister of Education announced that all schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year.

The government also announced new exceptions to the Highway 7 closure that was ordered on March 24, 2020. Residents of two northern Alberta communities (Smith's Landing and Fort Fitzgerald) will be allowed to enter the territory for the following essential services in Fort Smith:

  • gas;
  • health services;
  • pharmacy services;
  • groceries; and
  • postal services.

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