Below are the key government announcements made on March 27, 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
Prime Minister Trudeau announced additional new measures to help small and medium-sized businesses to keep employees on the payroll and to access credit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those measures include:
- a 75% wage subsidy for qualifying small and medium-sized businesses impacted by COVID-19. This is a significant increase from the previously announced 10% wage subsidy. This wage subsidy will be provided for up to 3 months, retroactive to March 15, 2020. Details on eligibility criteria will be provided before the end of the month. It is not yet clear whether there will be a cap on this new subsidy for each employer;
- a new “Canada Emergency Business Account” through which up to $25-billion will be made available to eligible financial institutions so they can provide interest-free loans to small businesses; and
- a new “Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Loan and Guarantee” program through which financial institutions, working with Export Development Canada, can issue new operating credit and cash flow term loans of up to $6.25-million to small and medium-sized companies.
The government announced an order requiring the closure of specific non-essential workplaces to the public, effective immediately. These include:
- public recreation facilities and private entertainment facilities such as gyms, arenas, museums, art galleries, bowling alleys, casinos, and bingo halls;
- retail, clothing and gaming stores, including book stores, hobby stores and antique stores. Despite closing physical premises to the public, these business may choose to offer online shopping and curb-side pick-up;
- restaurant, cafes, bars, and nightclubs. However take-out, delivery and drive-through services are still permitted;
- personal service facilities, cosmetic enhancement facilities, wellness studios and clinics, offering services such as esthetics, manicure, waxing, piercing, tattoos, hair styling and barbering, and hair removal; and
- non-emergency and non-critical health services including dentistry, massage, physiotherapy, acupuncture, chiropractic services, and naturopathy.
A full list of non-essential workplaces required to close to the public can be found here. The legal order making these closures mandatory was not yet released by 5 p.m. EDT.
Workplaces that are not otherwise ordered to close may remain operational provided that no more than 15 workers are on site and public health guidelines, including physical distancing are followed. The 15 person limit does not apply to grocery stores (including liquor stores), shopping centres, public transit, health care facilities, airports, or other essential services yet to be determined.
In addition to the closure of “non-essential” workplaces, the government announced further restrictions on public gatherings in the province:
- social gatherings must be limited to 15 people, including family gatherings, conferences, workshops, family events and social gatherings outdoors;
- gatherings of less than 15 people are to be cancelled if the gathering:
- includes any attendees travelling from outside of Canada;
- has, as its focus, attendees that are members of critical infrastructure or critical service roles (e.g. healthcare workers, first responders, electric/power workers, telecommunications);
- includes attendees from demographic groups at greater risk of severe disease, such as people 60 years of age or older and individuals with chronic medical conditions;
- has attendees participating in activities that promote disease transmission (e.g. singing, cheering, close contact, sharing food or beverages, buffet style meals); and
- is in a space that does not allow for recommended social distancing (at least 6 feet between attendees).
No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. EDT on March 27, 2020.
The government announced a temporary exception to the layoff provisions under the Employment Standards Code. Employers who laid off employees after March 1, 2020 (or who plan to lay off employees) due to COVID-19 will no longer be bound by the general rule limiting layoffs to up to 8 weeks in a 16 week period as prescribed in the legislation. This measure is temporary. The exception will be lifted once the provincial state of emergency comes to an end.
The government also introduced an internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy program free of charge to all Manitobans 16 years or older to help cope with anxiety related to COVID-19. The program will be accessible over the coming weeks.
The government also announced five highway checkpoints that will provide information to travellers about public health measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Employers, particularly those engaged in transportation, can expect their employees to be stopped at these checkpoints, but no one will be denied entry into Manitoba. Information about the location of these checkpoints can be found here.
The government announced a website with information about the one-time $900 income benefit (outlined in our previous post), which will be available as of 12:00 p.m. ADT on March 30, 2020. Benefit payments will begin on April 2, 2020.
Newfoundland and Labrador
On March 26, 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act (the “Act”) received Royal Assent.
The Act amends the Labour Standards Act to create an unpaid job-protected leave of absence where an employee cannot perform the duties of his or her position due to one or more of the following reasons:
- 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 employer may require an employee to provide “evidence reasonable in the circumstances” to support the leave of absence. However, the employer cannot require a certificate from a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner.
The government announced a rent-deferral program for small business operators who were forced to close under the public health order (PDF). Landlords will be asked to sign a rent-deferral agreement. The government will guarantee $5,000 a month to prevent a business’ permanent closure over an inability to pay rent.
Restaurants in the province are also now able to sell alcoholic beverages with takeout and delivery orders.
No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. EDT on March 27, 2020.
Prince Edward Island
The government announced that non-essential government services and non-essential businesses will remain closed indefinitely as the situation continues to be re-evaluated on a regular basis. All schools across the province will also remain closed for in-person classes and daycares will remain closed until at least May 11, 2020.
Premier Legault urged Quebecers to avoid travelling to the regions hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Montreal and Estrie. The Premier indicated the province does not currently intend to limit access to Montreal, but has heard calls to do so.
In a follow-up to comments made on March 26, 2020, Premier Legault also committed to ensuring some economic support is received by those who are earning less than $2,000 a month as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Further details are to be determined by the government.
Finally, the government announced that the GST/QST remittance deadline has been extended from March 31 to June 30, 2020.
No major government updates as of 5:00 pm EDT on March 27, 2020.
Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon
In Nunavut, the government announced financial support for small businesses through a Small Business Support Program. Information on the program is available online. The government provided updates on the status and services available from its departments.