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Author:
Charles Binns

Date:
2020.03.25

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THE EMPLOYERS' EDGE

Overview of Notable Developments Across Canadian Jurisdictions

As the legal landscape evolves with special measures in response to COVID-19, CCPartners will be updating the below chart to reflect legal amendments in all Canadian Jurisdictions.

As of March 25, 2020                                         

Jurisdiction

Notable Developments

Federal

The federal government announced that it will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy.

These funds will go towards a number of measures to provide financial relief for employers and workers in relation to COVID-19, such as:

  • Waiving the one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance sickness benefits for employees who are in quarantine or who have been directed to self-isolate.
  • Creating an Emergency Care Benefit (to support those who do not qualify for EI)
  • Extending the Work-sharing program
  • Providing small businesses with wage subsidies
  • Establishing a business credit availability program
  • Cutting the interest rate
  • Allowing more time to pay for income taxes

Access the government’s webpage here for more information.

British Columbia

British Columbia has declared a state of emergency and ordered all business and organizations that cannot meet social distancing requirements to close. All schools have been indefinitely closed. 

BC has announced a job protected leave related to COVID-19. An employee can take this leave if they’re unable to work for any of the following reasons:

  • They have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are following the instructions of a medical health officer or the advice of a doctor or nurse
  • They are in quarantine or self-isolation and are acting in accordance with an order of the provincial health officer, an order made under the Quarantine Act (Canada), guidelines from the BC Centre for Disease Control or guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Their employer has directed them not to work due to concern about their exposure to others
  • They need to provide care to their minor child or a dependent adult who is their child or former foster child for a reason related to COVID-19, including a school, daycare or similar facility closure
  • They are outside of BC and unable to return to work due to travel or border restrictions

The COVID-19 leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia. During this public health emergency, employees can take this job-protected leave for the reasons above as long as they need it, without putting their job at risk. Employers are prohibited from asking employees for a doctor’s note. Once it is no longer needed, this leave will be removed from the Employment Standards Act.

The government also introduced a new personal illness or injury leave to support employees on an on-going basis. This leave will provide up to 3 days of unpaid, job protected leave each year for employees who can’t work due to personal illness or injury. To qualify for this leave, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 90 days.

The government also announced an Emergency Benefit for Workers which will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to people who lost income because of COVID-19. A number of tax payments for businesses have also been deferred (see here)

Alberta

The government of Alberta has declared a public health emergency. The government also announced changes to the Employment Standards Code, which will allow employees to take 14 days of paid, job-protected leave if they are:

  • required to self-isolate
  • sick or caring for a loved one with COVID-19

Employees:

  • will not be required to have a medical note
  • do not need to have worked for an employer for 90 days

This leave is intended to cover the self-isolation period recommended by Alberta’s chief medical officer. It does not apply to self-employed individuals or contractors.

The government has also announced a number of other financial measures to support businesses (see here)

Saskatchewan

The Employment Act has been amended to guarantee access to unpaid job protected leave during the COVID-19 pandemic – effective retroactively on March 6. Amendments include:

  • Remove requirement of 13 consecutive weeks of employment with the employer before accessing sick leave
  • Remove need for doctor’s note
  • Introduction of a new unpaid public health emergency leave which can be accessed in a public health emergency and when the province issues an order to take measures to reduce the spread.

The Public Health Emergency Leave is intended for employees to assist in protecting their jobs during leaves as ordered by:

  • their employer;
  • the government;
  • their doctor; or
  • the chief medical health officer of the province.

Employees who are required to isolate themselves or care for their child or family member are eligible. Employees will be entitled to leave for the length of time they are ordered by their employer, government, their doctor or the chief medical health officer to remain away from work.

The Public Health Emergency Leave is an unpaid leave. However, employees are entitled to be paid their regular wages if their employer authorizes them to work from home during the period of time as set out by the order of the chief medical health officer or government. Under the Public Health Emergency Act, employees do not have to have worked for an employer for any set time in order to take Public Health Emergency Leave. 

Saskatchewan is currently developing a Self-isolation Support Program to supports workers who must isolate and are not covered by the federal government’s EI program and other supports. The program will provide $450 a week, for a maximum of two weeks ($900). To be eligible, residents of Saskatchewan must meet these criteria:

  • They have contracted COVID-19 or are showing symptoms; or
  • They have been in contact with an individual infected with COVID-19; or
  • They have recently returned from international travel and have been required to self-isolate;

AND

  • They are not eligible for compensation including sick leave, vacation leave from their employer;
  • They do not have private insurance covering such disruptions;
  • They are not covered by other programs such as federal employment insurance that has been updated 

Manitoba

The Manitoba government has declared a state of emergency. Schools have been closed and public gatherings are limited to 50 people (exemptions for retail businesses, etc.). Visitor access to hospitals has been suspended and visitor access at long-term care facilities is also subject to significant restrictions. All gaming events and wellness centers (i.e. gyms) have been closed

Ontario

The Ontario government introduced legislation amending the Employment Standards Act, 2000 by providing for a new job protected leave of absence where an employee:

  • is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19;
  • is acting in accordance with an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act;
  • is in isolation or quarantine;
  • is acting in accordance with public health information or direction;
  • is directed by their employer not to work; or
  • needs to provide care to a person for a reason related to COVID-19 such as a school or day-care closure.

This amendment also prohibits employers from requiring sick notes from employees to access the new leave of absence related to COVID-19. 

The Ontario government has also enacted a declaration of emergency and ordered the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces.

Quebec

On March 13, 2020, the government of Quebec declared a state of health emergency allowing it to exercise additional powers to help control the spread of COVID-19. As of Midnight March 24, 2020, all face-to-face business and commercial activity in the province will cease with the exception of essential services. A list of “essential services” is available here. The province has also established a Temporary Aid for Workers Program to provide financial assistance to workers who are unable to work because they are in isolation and are not eligible for another financial assistance program. More information on this program is available here

Quebec’s Occupational Health and Safety Commission has also established a FAQ resource, which addresses a number of common compensation, labour standards and occupational health and safety questions. That guide can be found here.

New Brunswick

On March 19, 2020, the government made a Declaration of Emergency and Mandatory Order. As a result of this declaration:

  • All food and beverage businesses will be reduced to take-out and delivery service only.
  • All lounges and special facilities licensed under the Liquor Control Act will stop admitting patrons.
  • All swimming pools, spas, saunas, waterparks, gymnasiums, yoga studios, dance studios, rinks and arenas, tennis courts, soccer and baseball fields, climbing walls, escape rooms, ski hills, golf courses, arcades, amusement centres, pool halls, bowling alleys, casinos, cinemas, libraries, museums, zoos, aquariums, barbers, hair stylists, esthetics service providers, sugar bush operations, and theatres or other live performance venues will stop admitting members of the public.
  • Schools, colleges, universities and private schools must be closed to students. Institutions which have students in residence are permitted to allow them to remain in residence until they can safely return home. Online course delivery may continue

Some other measures include:

  • All businesses in retail sales will stop admitting patrons, except: grocery stores; pharmacies; repair garages; post offices; financial and lending institutions; retailers of fuel, hardware and automotive parts; convenience stores; animal and fish feed providers; and corporate and agency stores of NB Liquor and Cannabis NB. All businesses required to stop admitting patrons are permitted to sell online or over the phone and to arrange delivery or pick-up of purchases.
  • Owners and managers of all workplaces and organizers of all activities will take every reasonable step to ensure minimal interaction of people within 2 metres of each other and carry out advice to minimize risk as issued by the chief medical officer of health.
  • All owners and managers of all workplaces will reduce to critical functions and will take every reasonable step required to prevent people who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 from entering the workplace, in accordance with advice issued by the chief medical officer of health or Worksafe New Brunswick. They will also take every reasonable step required to prevent people from entering workplaces who have travelled internationally in the previous 14 days.

See the full list and other resources for employers here.

The government has also announced that it will provide a one-time income benefit to either workers or self-employed people in New Brunswick who have lost their job due to the state of emergency. This one-time $900 benefit will be administered through the Red Cross and will help to bridge the time between when people lose their employment or close their business and to when they receive their federal benefit.

Nova Scotia

On March 22, 2020, Nova Scotia declared a state of emergency. Anyone who enters the province must self-isolate for 14 days (exceptions for essential workers, etc.). There are to be no gatherings of more than 5 people (essential businesses are exempt). The government has also ordered:

  • Closing Long-term care facilities and correctional facilities to all visitors.
  • Closing Public schools for two weeks following March Break (weeks of March 23 and March 30).
  • Ordering bars and restaurants to close (take-out options still available)
  • Asking employers to consider how they can support employees who may need to self-isolate. This includes discussing flexible hours or alternative work arrangements with employees in the event they get sick and/or need to isolate.
  • Prohibiting employers from asking for doctors' notes if employees are sick or need to self-isolate.
  • Requiring that organizations and businesses practise social distancing of two metres (6 feet) (and no gatherings of more than 5 people)

Those who violate these orders will be fined.

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has declared a public health emergency. Gatherings over 10 people are prohibited. The following facilities are ordered to close:

  • Gyms and fitness facilities, including yoga studios, tennis and squash facilities
  • Dance studios
  • Businesses that hold a license under the Liquor Control Act whose primary purpose is the consumption of beer, wine, or spirits
  • Cinemas
  • Arenas
  • Performance spaces
  • Bingo halls
  • Personal services establishments including spas, esthetic services, hair salons, body piercing, tattooing and tanning salons
  • Retail stores, unless those stores provide services essential to life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals. See the Special Measures Order for details

Schools, daycares, and the courts have all been closed as well. Anyone arriving to Newfoundland and Labrador after March 14 is required to self-isolate.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I. has declared a public health emergency and established a $25 million COVID-19 Emergency Contingency Fund. Non-essential government services are cancelled and theaters, bars, and restaurants have been ordered to close. The province has provided information online to assist employers, which is available here. The province has also established a toll-free number (1-866-222-1751) for PEI business with questions about COVID-19. Employers have been advised to take the following precautions:

  • Implement an emergency plan
  • Create a plan for supporting employees who become ill and/or need to isolate
  • Avoid requesting doctors’ note from employees who become sick or self-isolate
  • Support proper infection prevention and control measures in your business. This includes posting handwashing signs, providing alcohol-based sanitizer to encourage frequent hand hygiene and ensuring space/surface cleaning is completed

The government also recently announced that they will provide the following financial support for businesses:

  • Emergency Income Relief for the self-employed, which will provide $500 per week lump sum for self-employed Islanders, delivered through Innovation PEI; and
  • Emergency Working Capital Financing, which will provide support for small businesses through a capital loan of up to $100,000 with a fixed interest rate of 4% per annum, to be delivered through Finance PEI

Northwest Territories

The government has declared a territory-wide public health emergency. All travel into the Northwest Territories by non-residents has also been prohibited (exemptions for essential workers). The GNWT has put together an initial economic relief package valued at $13.2 Million dollars that will take effect immediately. This package will include waiving fees, deferring payments, and low interest loans (more information here)

Nunavut

Nunavut has declared a public health emergency. It has announced significant travel restrictions with only residents allowed to travel into the province (with limited exceptions). All public gatherings have been prohibited (retail businesses providing essential services are exempt).

Yukon

The Yukon government declared a public health emergency. Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned. Restaurants must reduce seating capacity by 50%. All bars and personal service business must close. 

The Yukon government introduced an economic stimulus package to support local workers and businesses impacted by COVID-19. This money is being made available to help offset the negative impacts of the evolving global situation.

The stimulus package will:

  • Support Yukon workers through a COVID-19 related 14 day isolation with 10 days of paid sick leave;
  • Reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 by establishing a grant program to address certain expenses related to cancelled events;
  • Stimulate business and the tourism industry by waiving, reimbursing or delaying government fee collection, such as airport landing fees;
  • Relieve financial pressures by deferring Worker’s Compensation Health and Safety premium payments and reimburse those paid up-front, waive penalties and interest (with approval by the Board);
  • Support the tourism industry with enhanced local advertising efforts;
  • Support the cultural industry by honouring transfer payment agreements considering COVID-19 related impacts

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