Bill 24: Extending Legislative Amendments Resulting from COVID-19

Over the past few months, governments have introduced several emergency measures to help employers and employees cope with the economic fallout resulting from COVID-19.  On June 18, 2020, following the lapse of Alberta's declaration of a public health emergency, the Government of Alberta tabled Bill 24: the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act.  Bill 24 proposes amendments to 15 Acts across seven ministries.  Presuming the Bill passes without significant amendments, there are numerous employment-related amendments contained in Bill 24 that will be of interest to employers across the province.

The maximum length of temporary layoffs under the Employment Standards Code had previously been extended to 120 days.  Bill 24 further extends the maximum for temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 to 180 days.  While most legislation goes into effect only once the Bill has received Royal Assent, if the Bill is passed this change would be considered to come into effect as of the first reading of Bill 24 (June 18, 2020).  This change helps provide employers with some extra time and flexibility when it comes to reopening their business.

By way of a companion Order in Council (181/2020) the unpaid, job-protected leave provision specific to COVID-19, which allows employees to take leave to care for a child due to school or daycare closures has been extended to August 2021.  This leave can also be used by employees to care for ill or self-isolating family members.  This means an employee may use this leave in the situation where their child may not be able to return to childcare arrangements due to health concerns.  Employers may see a more frequent use of this leave as businesses relaunch.  While daycares can resume operation, the guidelines governing them create restraints that mean the number of available spaces may be limited.

Bill 24 will also extend the provisions which require employers and employees in designated long-term care facilities to restrict workers to single sites.  The single-site worker restrictions are now expected to remain in effect until February 14, 2022, unless otherwise altered by the Government.

Lastly, there have also been numerous amendments to the Public Health Act in Alberta.  Notably, the Government of Alberta has extended their emergency powers for a period of 60 days following the end of a public health emergency.  This will allow the Government of Alberta to issue additional emergency orders or to amend orders that are already in place, if required.

Numerous other amendments unrelated to labour and employment laws are included in Bill 24, including the remote signing and witnessing of estate and care documents through two-way video conferencing.  A link to the full contents of Bill 24 and its status as it progresses through the Legislature, can be found here.

Neuman Thompson will continue to provide you with updated information as it becomes available.  For further information or assistance, do not hesitate to contact a member of our team.

The information in this update is intended as general information and should not relied on as legal advice.