Below are the key government announcements made on March 30, 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
The Prime Minister announced additional details regarding the previously announced 75% wage subsidy (now called the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy) for eligible employers, including the following:
- it will be available to non-profit organizations, charities, and large and small companies that have had their revenues decrease by at least 30% due to COVID-19;
- the number of employees and size of the business is no longer part of the eligibility criteria;
- the government will cover up to 75% of salary on the first $58,700 earned per employee - an equivalent of up to $847 per week per employee; and
- the subsidy will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.
Employers are encouraged to top-up the remaining 25% of remuneration to their workers. The government also cautioned that there will be serious consequences for businesses who attempt to take advantage of this wage subsidy.
Many significant details have yet to be announced, including how businesses will prove the 30% decline in revenue, whether applications for this subsidy will be required, and when and how the subsidy will be distributed. More details are to be released by the Minister of Finance and Minister of Small Business on March 31, 2020.
No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on March 30, 2020.
The government issued new guidelines for retail food and grocery store businesses. Among these guidelines, the government clarified that more than 50 people at a time may be in a retail food or grocery store premises, provided that safe physical distancing and hygiene practices are implemented. The government recommends limiting capacity of persons on site to no more than one person for every 4 square meters of retail floor space.
The government also relaxed the prohibition on disclosure of personal information outside Canada for purposes related to the COVID -19 pandemic, until June 30, 2020. Provincial health authorities may disclose personal information for specific COVID-19 purposes. Other public bodies may use third party tools and applications to disclose personal information outside Canada, provided they are used for specific COVID-19 purposes. Disclosure of personal information is limited to the minimum amount reasonably necessary for those purposes.
The government announced a new public health order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, effective April 1, 2020. This new order repeals all previous public health orders issued by the government, and includes the following:
- public gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people at any indoor or outdoor place or premises;
- all restaurants and other commercial facilities can no longer service food at their premises – delivery and take-out is allowed (provided patrons can maintain the appropriate social distancing requirements when picking up food);
- all businesses that are not listed as critical services must close between April 1 and April 14, 2020.Remote work (i.e., work from home) and/or online operations are permitted provided they follow specific requirements as outlined in the order; and
- municipal transit services, taxis and other private vehicles for hire can continue to operate, provided they ensure reasonable separation between people in the vehicle.
As previously reported, applications for the New Brunswick Workers Emergency Income Benefit may be made online as of March 30, 2020, or by calling the Red Cross at 1-800-863-6582.
Newfoundland and Labrador
On March 30, 2020, the Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Medical Officer of Health announced additional Special Measures Orders under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act. The following new measures are established by order:
- funerals, visitations, and wakes are prohibited until further notice;
- burials and weddings are to be limited to no more than 5 people, including the officiant;
- retail stores that remain open to provide essentials are to stop the sale of lotto tickets, including scratch and break-open tickets; and
- all individuals who are required to self-isolate are prohibited from leaving their property (individuals who live in condo units are not permitted to leave their unit) unless leaving the property is required to receive medical attention.
The government published guidance for specific businesses with respect to operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, including for non-essential retail businesses wishing to provide alternative service delivery (including via ecommerce and contactless delivery) and for employers in the construction industry. Guidelines relevant for businesses include:
- COVID-19 and the Construction Industry
- Alternative Service Delivery for Retail Stores; and
- Alternative Service Delivery for Craft and Microbreweries.
On March 30, 2020, the government announced that it would be extending the school closure order pursuant to the Health Protection Order (PDF) to May 1, 2020. Schools in the province were scheduled to reopen Monday April 6, 2020, but the closures have been extended a further 4 weeks.
On March 30, 2020, the government extended the provincial state of emergency, which was set to expire on March 31, 2020, for an additional 14 days. The government also extended all associated emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, including the closure of non-essential workplaces, until April 13, 2020.
Prince Edward Island
The government announced a new Commercial Lease Rent Deferral Program to support small and medium-sized businesses that have closed due to the impacts of COVID-19. This program provides that landlords who defer rent payments from their commercial tenants for 3 months (May-July) may be eligible for financial assistance (up to a maximum of $50,000 per landlord and $15,000 per tenant) if the deferred rent cannot be recovered.
The government announced that all shops in Quebec will have to be closed on Sunday throughout the month of April 2020, except for the following: gas stations, convenience stores, pharmacies and take-out services from restaurants. Grocery stores are among the stores that will be required to close each Sunday in April.
On March 30, 2020, the government announced that it is temporarily modifying hours of service regulations for commercial truck drivers in response to COVID-19. The exemption from the hours of service regulations applies to the transportation of the following goods and supplies to meet immediate needs related to COVID-19:
- medical supplies and equipment related to testing, diagnosis and treatment;
- supplies and equipment necessary for community safety and sanitation, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants;
- food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centres or stores;
- raw materials, such as paper, plastic or alcohol, required for the manufacture of medical supplies, sanitation items and safe distribution of groceries;
- equipment, supplies and people to establish and manage temporary housing, quarantine and isolation facilities;
- people designated by federal, provincial/territorial or local authorities for medical, isolation, or quarantine purposes; and
- people needed to provide other medical or emergency services.
Mixed loads of essential goods and non-essential goods will not be exempt from the provincial hours of service regulations. Carriers wanting to switch from transporting essential goods and supplies to non-essential goods and supplies will be required to ensure drivers take a minimum of 8 consecutive hours of rest and follow the standard provincial regulations.
The government also announced that as truck drivers are essential to the movement of goods, they are exempt from the 14-day isolation period after returning to Saskatchewan.
Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon
In Nunavut, the government indicated that all individuals under investigation for COVID-19 are subject to a mandatory isolation order and will be fined should the order be breached (i.e. up to a $50,000 fine or up to six months' imprisonment). The government also provided new updates on the status and services available from its departments.
In the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, there were no major government updates on March 30, 2020 as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T.