Below are the key government announcements made since September 13, 2020 that touch on workplace issues. Our previous daily (weekday), weekend and weekly overviews of past government announcements, employment analyses and other COVID-19 information are available here.
This bulletin is a special bulletin in our previous series of daily (weekday), weekend and weekly overviews of COVID-19 government announcements.
The Federal Government
Since September 13, 2020, the government has:
1. Enacted legislation which establishes new temporary benefits for workers, effective September 27, 2020, until September 25, 2021. These benefits include the:
• Canada Recovery Benefit: Provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks to workers who are self-employed or are not eligible for employment insurance (EI), and whose income has dropped by at least 50%;
• Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: Provides $500 per week for up to two weeks per household, for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the week, because they:
• contracted or might have contracted COVID-19;
• have underlying conditions, are undergoing treatments or have contracted other sicknesses that, in the opinion of a medical/nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority, would make them more susceptible to COVID-19; or
• isolated themselves on the advice of their employer, a medical/nurse practitioner, person in authority, government or public health authority for reasons related to COVID-19;
• Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit:Provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks for workers unable to work for at least 50% of the week because they must care for a child under the age of 12 or family member because schools, day-cares or care facilities are closed due to COVID-19, or because the child or family member is sick and/or required to quarantine or is at high risk of serious health implications because of COVID-19;
2. Made changes to the COVID-19 leave of absence in the Canada Labour Code providing employees with unpaid leaves of absence while in receipt of the above-mentioned new temporary benefits;
3. Announced a further extension of the temporary lay-off period under the Canada Labour Code;
4. Amended the Canada Labour Standards Regulationsto waive the medical certificate requirement for medical leaves. The waiver applies from October 14, 2020 to September 25, 2021;
5. Passed legislation which (1) expands the eligibility criteria for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to include employees employed primarily in Canada and during a portion of the qualifying period, and (2) extends the CEWS to June 30, 2021;
6. Filed three Interim Orders which implement temporary measures to the EI program in response to COVID-19: Interim Order No. 8, Interim Order No. 9, and Interim Order No. 10; and
7. Temporarily extended the eligible wages period for the Wage Earner Protection Program (WEPP) by up to 6 months. The WEPP provides financial support to workers who are owed eligible wages when their employer files for bankruptcy or becomes subject to receivership.
Since September 13, 2020, the government announced public health restrictions, most of which came into effect November 24, 2020 and are scheduled to last three (3) weeks. These include, but are not limited to:
• mandatory mask use in all indoor workplaces, except when working alone in an office, in a safely distanced cubicle or when an appropriate barrier is in place;
• consideration of working from home arrangements, where possible;
• moving Grades 7 through 12 to home learning effective November 30, 2020 through to January 11, 2020;
• moving Grades K through 6 to home learning after the holiday break, and resuming in-person classes on January 11, 2020;
• the mandatory closure of certain recreational or entertainment businesses, including:
• community halls and centres;
• indoor children's play centres and indoor playgrounds;
• theatres, auditoriums, concert halls, community theatres and nightclubs;
• banquet halls and conference centres;
• limitations on in-door dining, effective November 27, 2020;
• limiting retail business capacity to 25% of the occupancy set by the Alberta Fire Code; and
• requiring certain personal and professional services business to operate by appointment only, effective November 27, 2020
The orders imposing these restrictions can be found here (PDF) and here (PDF).
Since September 13, 2020:
• The provincial state of emergency has been extended to December 8, 2020 (PDF).
• The Provincial Health Officer has made the following orders that are in effect until at least December 7, 2020:
• non-essential travel, both out-of-province and in-province between provincial health regions, is discouraged;
• almost all events and social gatherings are prohibited, including indoor and outdoor social gatherings at private residences;
• masks are mandatory in many public settings, and masks are strongly recommended in common non-public areas including residential lobbies, workplaces, and schools;
• nightclubs have been ordered closed and strict requirements have been put in-place respecting dine-in service at restaurants, including mandatory masks when not seated; and
• various indoor group fitness activities have been ordered closed or temporarily suspended.
• Employers are required to review and update their mandatory COVID-19 Safety Plan to ensure that appropriate protocols are in place to protect workers from the risk of transmission, work-from-home options are employed where possible, and workers and customers wear masks when not separated by space or barriers. Customer-facing businesses have been specifically asked to provide signage regarding mandatory mask requirements.
Since September 13, 2020, the government:
• extended the State of Emergency until December 6, 2020;
• imposed restrictions on private and public gathering sizes (PDF);
• imposed restrictions on retail operations. Retail businesses are permitted to open but only to sell essential items with limited capacity restrictions. Non-essential items must be removed from the areas of the business that members of the public have access to;
• created the Manitoba Bridge Grant to provide a one-time payment of $5,000 to small and medium-sized businesses, not-for-profit and charitable organizations ordered to temporarily cease operations. Eligible organizations can submit applications until December 15, 2020;
• extended the Back to Work Wage Subsidy Program. Applications can be submitted until December 1, 2020; and
• proposed changes to the Employment Standards Code to allow more worked to take protected leave due to COVID-19.
Since September 13, 2020, the provincial government has:
1. Implemented travel restrictions for those entering the province. Any individual entering New Brunswick, including those returning home, must register for travel into the province, or face penalties. Further, anyone entering New Brunswick must self-isolate for 14 days unless exempt;
2. Introduced new rules for those in certain zones:
• introduced amendments to the recovery levels (see details here);
• where one bubble is required, it may be extended to an immediate family member who requires mental, social and/or emotional support (see details here);
• directed that licensed premises (e.g. bar or restaurant) in the orange zone must ensure all patrons are seated at all times, except when entering or exiting the premises or to use the washroom (see details here); and
• introduced additional rules for screening and face masks for those attending schools or child care in the orange zone (see details here); and
3. Amended its emergency order (PDF) regarding COVID-19 to include a mandatory mask requirement for indoor public places, including public transit.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Since September 13, 2020, the government:
• announced temporary changes to the Atlantic Bubble travel protocol effective November 25, 2020. People arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from within the Atlantic Bubble are now required to self-isolate for 14 days;
• established a Revised Travel Exemption Order (PDF) effective November 23, 2020. The Revised Travel Exemption Order specifies the individuals who are exempt from the prohibition on entering Newfoundland and Labrador. Atlantic Bubble travelers are not required to apply for a travel exemption, provided they comply with all public health measures (including the 14 day self-isolation requirement);
• established a Revised Self-Isolation Exemption Order (PDF) applicable to rotational workers effective November 23, 2020. The Revised Self-Isolation Exemption Order specifies the isolation requirements applicable to rotational workers who reside in Newfoundland and Labrador but work in another province or territory in Canada; and
• created a COVID-19 Stimulus Program for communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. A full list of financial and other measures the government has taken to support the provincial business community during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.
Since September 13, 2020, the government has:
1. Extended the provincial state of emergency until December 13, 2020;
2. Introduced new restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which impact gatherings, certain businesses, Atlantic Bubble travel, and testing at long-term care facilities. The new restrictions began at 12:01 a.m. on November 26, 2020, and will last for a minimum of two weeks; and
3. Introduced a one-time grant of up to $5,000 to support small, independently owned dine- in restaurants, bars, fitness and leisure businesses impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions.
Since September 13, 2020, the government has:
• introduced a new framework for COVID-19 restriction levels and public health measures, shifting from a "Stage 1, 2 and 3 framework, to a framework with the following five (5) colour-coded levels:
• green - prevent (standard measures), being the broadest allowance of activities in Stage 3;
• yellow – protect (strengthened measures), being Stage 3 with certain enhanced targeted enforcement and public health measures in high risk settings;
• orange – restrict (intermediate measures), being Stage 3 with certain enhanced measures, restrictions and enforcement;
• red – control (stringent measures), being a modified Stage 2; and
• grey – lockdown (maximum measures), being a modified Stage 1 or pre-Stage 1."
The government's framework, Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, is availablehere. As of November 30, 2020, the Peel Regional Health Unit and Toronto Public Health units are the only units in the province in the grey – lockdown level. The Regulations for the green, yellow and orange levels can be found here. The Regulations for the red level can be found here and the grey level can be found here;
• made modifications to the Regulations applicable to those public health regions in the grey – lockdown level, available here. Those modifications include changes to the Stage 1 rules regarding those business which can operate. The modifications include a requirement that businesses permitted to operate must have a written "Safety Plan" in place on or before November 30, 2020. The Safety Plan must:
• describe the measures and procedures which have been implemented or will be implemented in the business to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19;
• describe how the requirements for those business in the grey – lockdown level will be implemented in the location including by screening, physical distancing, masks or face coverings, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects, and the wearing of personal protective equipment; and
• be posted in a conspicuous place in the workplace;
• announced additional supports available for businesses affected by COVID-19 public health measures, specifically business required to close or significantly restrict services due to enhanced public health measures;
• announced the deployment of new COVID-19 rapid tests to "provide faster results in regions of high transmission and rural and remote areas" as an "additional tool to help keep essential workers safe";
• extended orders in force under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 until December 21, 2020;
• announced Ontario's Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover which is intended to "respond to the serious health and economic impacts of COVID-19", and includes $45-billion in support over three (3) years to "make available the necessary health resources to continue protecting people, deliver critical programs and tax measures to support individuals, families and job creators impacted by the virus, and lay the groundwork for a robust long-term economic recovery for the province.";
• passed Bill 218, Supporting Ontario's Recovery Act, 2000 (PDF) that provides certain liability protection for workers, volunteers and organizations that make a "good faith effort" to follow public health guidelines and laws relating to exposure to COVID-19, including healthcare workers and institutions, frontline workers, businesses and their employees. At the same time, the legislation allows legal action to be commenced against those who willfully, or with gross negligence, endanger others.
Prince Edward Island
Since September 13, 2020, the government announced:
1. PEI's workers who travel outside the Atlantic Bubble can apply to work-isolate when returning to the province as long as they get tested for COVID-19. This means that returning workers will self-isolate at home when not at work or attending COVID-19 testing appointments but will be able to work while keeping physical distance, wearing a non-medical mask, and adhering to any other health and safety measures;
2. Temporary funding increases to eight programs to support businesses impacted by COVID-19. The increases are in effect from November 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021;
3. The following additional rules regarding masks and face coverings:
- all indoor public spaces: since November 20, 2020, non-medical masks or face coverings are mandatory in all indoor public space; and
- in schools : starting November 30, 2020 and in effect for at least two weeks, non-medical masks or face coverings are required for school workers and students from Grades 10 to 12 at all times while indoors.
4. The 30-day extension of the provincial State of Public Health Emergency effective November 12, 2020; and
5. As of November 24, 2020, the suspension of PEI's participation in the Atlantic Bubble for two weeks.
In September, the government announced a colour system to identify the regions most at risk regarding COVID-19. The colours consist of green (vigilance and distancing measures is to be observed), yellow (pre-alert, police interventions are justified), orange (moderate alert) and red (maximum alert, establishments may be forced to close).
The regions of Québec and Montréal entered the red zone on October 1, 2020. The region of Estrie entered the red zone on November 12, 2020. The government issued an order for the closure of all bars, casinos, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, libraries and also gyms in an amended order governing red zones. All indoor and outdoor gatherings are prohibited.
The government announced an assistance stream for businesses in regions under maximum alert (ABRUMA) for businesses affected by government orders in red zones. The ABRUMA includes loan forgiveness measures that will cover up to 80% of eligible business' core operating costs, up to $15,000 per month.
In orange zones, the government ordered bars, restaurants and microbreweries to cease the serving alcohol at 11 p.m. and to bar alcohol consumption after midnight. In addition, educational institutions are required to reduce the number of hours spent on in-classroom education for Secondary III, IV and V students by 50% in favour of distance learning. Colleges, universities and continuing education institutions are required to promote distance learning.
The provincial public health state of emergency was extended until December 2, 2020.
Since September 13, 2020:
1. The government extended the provincial State of Emergency, effective November 9, 2020;
2. The Chief Medical Health Officer issued:
• a Public Health Order (PDF), effective November 16, 2020, for food, beverage, and liquor serving premises;
• a Public Health Order (PDF), effective November 19, 2020, which aligns with the staged lifting of restrictions under the phased approach of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan;
• a Public Health Order (PDF), effective November 19, 2020, which clarifies the November 19, 2020 Order, and makes the use of non-medical masks mandatory in most indoor public places; and
3. The government announced a new phase of the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program, effective November 19, 2020, targeted to workers in long-term care facilities, personal care homes, integrated healthcare facilities (which include both long-term and short-term care) and for home care workers providing care to seniors in their own homes.
Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon
Since September 13, 2020 in the Yukon, the government:
• extended the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program, which provides low-income essential workers with a wage top-up, until February 15, 2021;
•made mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public spaces as of December 1, 2020;
•imposed new self-isolation rules;
•announced new funding through the Tourism Accommodation Sector Supplement for businesses providing traveller accommodation; and
•extended the Yukon Business Relief Program, which can be used to cover various types of business costs, until March 31, 2021.
Since September 13, 2020 in the Northwest Territories, the government:
•extended the State of Emergency in the City of Yellowknife until December 4, 2020; and
•extended the Public Health Emergency until November 24, 2020.
Since September 13, 2020 in Nunavut, the government:
•extended the Public Health Emergency until December 10, 2020;
•imposed a two-week territory-wide lockdown which begun on November 18, 2020. Details of the applicable restrictions and closures are available online;
•made mask-wearing mandatory in the Kivalliq region and Sanikiluaq;
•imposed region-specific public health restrictions and guidelines. Updated information is available online.