Below are the key government announcements made on April 15, 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
During his daily briefing, the Prime Minister announced that the government will be expanding access to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit ("CERB") and will be offering wage support to low-income essential workers.
To help more Canadians benefit from the CERB, the government will be changing the eligibility rules to:
- allow people to earn up to $1,000 per month while collecting the CERB;
- extend the CERB to seasonal workers who have exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to undertake their usual seasonal work as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak; and
- extend the CERB to workers who recently exhausted their EI regular benefits and are unable to find a job or return to work because of COVID-19.
These changes will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.
Further, in order to assist essential workers who are making a salary that is less than or similar to what they would receive from the CERB, the government will work with provinces and territories through a new transfer to cost-share a temporary top-up for the salaries of workers deemed essential in the fight against COVID-19 and who make less than $2,500 a month. Details as to the application and delivery of this measure will be released shortly. While the government has not yet confirmed which employees will be deemed essential for the purposes of this wage boost, the government's backgrounder specifically mentions workers who are "front-line in hospitals and nursing homes, those ensuring the integrity of the food supply, or providing essential retail services to Canadians." Quebec and British Columbia have already implemented direct wage support for low-income workers in the essential service sectors; therefore, the federal government will be sharing the cost of this wage support with these provinces through the new transfer.
Further to Public Health Order CMOH Order 10-2020 , the Government of Alberta issued Ministerial Order No.22.2020 amending the Employment Standards Code and Labour Relations Code. CMOH Order 10-2020 requires staff members who work at more than one health care facility to elect to work at only one health care facility for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new Ministerial Order permits employers to implement these restrictions, without violating any provision of the Employment Standards Code, Labour Relations Code, or specific agreements such as an employment agreement or collective agreement, provided that:
- an employer at a worksite at which the employee will no longer be providing services must:
- place the employee on an unpaid leave of absence;
- issue the employee a Record of Employment; and
- allow the employee to return to work within a reasonable period of time after.
- if an employee's total hours are reduced as a result of working for only one employer or at only one worksite and the employee wishes to work additional hours at the worksite at which they will continue to provide services:
- the employer of that worksite must increase the employee's scheduled hours of work so far as reasonably possible, up to the maximum of a full-time-equivalent position, so the employee's hours at that worksite are equal to the hours the employee would have worked but for CMOH Order 10;
- if the employee has not been scheduled for hours of work equal to the hours the employee would have worked but for the CMOH Order 10, the employer must provide the employee the opportunity to work additional hours as overtime, if available, on a priority basis over all other employees whose total hours are not reduced as a result of compliance with CMOH Order 10; and
- if requested, the employee must provide the employer with evidence of the hours the employee worked prior to the CMOH Order 10.
- an employer of a worksite at which the employee will no longer be providing services must continue the employee's group benefits, if any, pursuant to the terms of any governing collective agreement, and subject to the terms and conditions of the employee's group benefits plan, if any.
- employers are not obligated to increase the employee's group benefits, regardless of the hours worked by the employee.
The government extended its declaration of a state of emergency, until April 28, 2020.
The government has announced forthcoming amendments to the Emergency Measures Act that will give the province additional order-making power to respond to public health emergencies.
These amendments will allow the government to issue:
- emergency orders such as those that would allow fixed pricing, prohibit price gouging and establish emergencies facilities;
- temporary suspension orders; and
- reporting deadline variation orders for government and government agency reporting.
Penalties for violating the Emergency Measures Act would also be increased to $100,000 and/or one year of imprisonment for individuals and $1,000,000 for corporations.
Manitoba also has adopted the New West Partnership Trade Agreement with three other western provinces, which the province expects to help create new opportunities for private-sector investment and job creation. The measures in the agreement will remove barriers to the movement of goods, services, investment and people between the provinces. For more information regarding the partnership, click here.
The government announced that the Legislative Assembly will reconvene on Friday, April 17, 2020 to consider certain legislative amendments, including the creation of a job protected leave for workers absent from work due to COVID-19.
Newfoundland and Labrador
No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on April 15, 2020.
The government released Guidance (PDF) for Temporary Foreign Workers ("TFWs") employed in the agriculture and seafood sectors. The Guidance touches on how TFWs can travel into and self-isolate in the province, the required education for TFWs on safety measures, hygiene, and physical distancing, and workplace protocols for employers employing TFWs.
General guidance for all employers can be found here.
The government announced an action plan and a new emergency regulation relating to long-term care homes. According to the government press release, the COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes "adds critical new measures to prevent further outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes, including:
- Aggressive Testing, Screening, and Surveillance: enhancing testing for symptomatic residents and staff and those who have been in contact with persons confirmed to have COVID-19; expanding screening to include more asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases; and leveraging surveillance tools to enable care providers to move proactively against the disease.
- Managing Outbreaks and Spread of the Disease: supporting long-term care homes with public health and infection control expertise to contain and prevent outbreaks; providing additional training and support for current staff working in outbreak conditions.
- Growing our Heroic Long-Term Care Workforce: redeploying staff from hospitals and home and community care to support the long-term care home workforce and respond to outbreaks, alongside intensive on-going recruitment initiatives."
The new emergency regulation requires long-term care employers to ensure that their employees only work in one long-term care facility, effective 12:01 a.m. E.D.T. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The order applies broadly to any employee who performs work as an employee of a long-term care provider, and includes registered nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers, kitchen and cleaning staff. The order must be posted by employers in the long-term care facility.
A government press release regarding the emergency order indicates that "long-term care workers who must temporarily give up a job in another care setting are protected from losing their job as they are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence", encourages long-term care employers to help employees make up lost wages resulting from these leaves of absences, and announced the availability of emergency funds "to help long-term care homes cover the incremental costs of increasing hours for part-time staff to help those staff limit their work locations."
The Ontario Ministry of Labour has posted a guide on the Employment Standards Act, 2000's new infectious disease emergency leave. The guide includes information on, among other topics, the reasons that the employee may take an infectious disease emergency leave, proof that may be requested by an employer, and information about how absences prior to March 19, 2020 will be addressed.
Prince Edward Island
The government announced a new initiative to create and subsidize employment and economic opportunities for high school and post-secondary students. The government expects its new initiatives will support the creation of 1,000 jobs for youth.
Premier Legault urged specialists and family doctors to help nurses and beneficiary attendants working in long term care facilities (CHSLDs). At present, these facilities are facing a staffing shortage of approximately 2000 workers. The Premier particularly appealed to medical professionals who have less work to do because of the postponement of surgeries.
The Premier also indicated that he was working with Public Health to permit small businesses to open and compete with big-box stores which are currently permitted to operate. No details were given on a timeline for this initiative.
No major government updates as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on April 15, 2020.
Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon
In the Northwest Territories, the Public Health Emergency and the State of Emergency were both extended until April 28, 2020. No additional restrictions were announced as of 5:00 p.m. E.D.T. on April 15, 2020.