COVID-19: A general summary
Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Nothing in this post constitutes legal advice nor contains a guarantee, warranty or prediction in outcome. This post may be updated as circumstances change or a new post may link back to this post. This post is non-comprehensive and there may exist additional changes or notices elsewhere that are not summarized below. Readers should consult professional advice, legal or otherwise, when it comes to their own circumstances/situation.
There is a lot of information out there on the current COVID-19 (2019 novel coronavirus) and it can sometimes be overwhelming. This post is a general summary of some legislative changes by the federal government, the Ontario government and the Alberta government. I receive a number of requests regarding duties of employers and workers' rights. I include such high level information below.
The federal government introduced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) on March 25, 2020. It is available March 15, 2020 until October 3, 2020.
The federal government introduced the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan with various support for both individuals and businesses.
Bill C-13 was introduced this past week which governs various pieces of legislation including the federal labour code.
The federal government announced an emergency order pursuant to the Quarantine Act, requiring "any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19." Persons violating such orders may receive a fine pursuant to relevant legislation.
Later in the day on March 27, 2020, the Prime Minister announced additional support for businesses through 75% wage subsidy, retroactive to March 15, 2020.
On Saturday March 28, 2020, the Prime Minister announced additional measures for domestic travel.
Public Health Ontario provides general information relating to COVID-19.
Various legislative changes happen that relate to COVID-19 and such legislation changes generally include:
Employer Health Tax Act
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
Hearings in Tribunal Proceedings (Temporary Measures) Act, 2020
Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income Act
Ontario Loan Act, 2020
Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004
Taxation Act, 2007
The Ontario government made various changes to the Employment Standards Act and changes made to the Municipal Act, allowing council to conduct business during this time (source).
Various orders were made pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9 which you can view under “Regulations under this Act” at this link: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90e09.
On March 28, 2020, the Ontario government announced measures to deliver essential goods and services to the frontline.
On March 28, 2020, the Ontario government prohibits gathering of five or more people with strict exceptions:
It does not apply to private households with five people or more.
It does also not apply to operating child care centres supporting frontline health care workers and first responders provided the number of persons at each centre does not exceed 50 people.
Funerals would be permitted to proceed with up to 10 people at one time.
You can report price gouging here.
Alberta provides general information for Albertans.
Alberta Health Services provide information here on COVID-19.
Alberta declared a public health emergency under Public Health Act. This is significantly different than an emergency order declared under the province's emergency management legislation.
The Alberta Government provides some legislative changes via Budget 2020, among others. There is also support for individuals and businesses.
Alberta made legislative amendments to its emergency management legislation via Emergency Management Amendment Act. The changes allow for a more localized response to direct efforts. More information here.
Federally Regulated Employees
Federally regulated employees may have the right to refuse dangerous work, among other rights as part of the CLC. There may be specific rights outlined in collective agreements and other relevant policies.
Federally regulated employees have responsibilities, generally, to inform his- or herself by consulting relevant information and following management directions, among other things.
Managers are responsible for the occupational health and safety of their employees. All employees play an important role during this time including regarding members of the public visiting a federal workplace.
Employers should consider the added stress and anxiety imposed on employees and that these may require additional accommodations or considerations.
Due to COVID-19, federally regulated employees may be granted leave without a certificate.
Provincially Regulated Employees (ON/AB)
Many people and businesses have been impacted by COVID-19. Some businesses have either laid off or terminated employees. Employers generally should exercise caution when making changes to the employee/employer relationship. Being laid off carries the expectation that the employee may return to work, among other things. There are other considerations especially with the recent order under Ontario's emergency management legislation as non-essential and essential businesses in Ontario. A similar list will come to Alberta. On March, 28, 2020, Alberta released this list.
Under health and safety legislation in Ontario, some employees have the right to refuse work; they do not need to prove they are at actual risk of danger. In Alberta, this right exists with some differences. There are obligations for employees in both provinces when exercising their right to refuse work.
Further, in Ontario, employees cannot be threatened, dismissed, disciplined, intimidated or coerced for complying with Ontario health and safety legislation. In Alberta, employees cannot experience discriminatory action for taking-action under Alberta’s health and safety legislation. Discriminatory action under Alberta's relevant legislation is defined as:
“discriminatory action” means any action or threat of action by a person that does or would adversely affect a worker with respect to any terms or conditions of employment or opportunity for promotion, and includes termination, layoff, suspension, demotion or transfer of a worker, discontinuation or elimination of a job, change of a job location, reduction in wages, change in hours of work, reprimand, coercion, intimidation or the imposition of any discipline or other penalty.
In light of the current situation and despite any emergency order in Ontario, Ontario's health and safety legislation prevails. In Alberta, the relevant public health legislation may prohibit someone from engaging in their occupation by order from a medical officer of health.
Employers and employees should seek legal advice when it comes to their specific situation/circumstances.