March 23, 2020 COVID-19 Update

As the COVID-19 situation in Canada and around the world continues to develop rapidly, we are providing our seventh update to employers. By request, we are continuing to include updates on jurisdictions outside of Alberta. 
We will continue to provide information as it becomes available. We remain available to you to answer any specific questions you may have.


Over the weekend, all provincial and territorial jurisdictions who had not already done so declared states of emergency or states of public health emergency. These declarations give the respective governments additional powers to respond to the deepening COVID-19 crisis. 
Further, the Northwest Territories has announced plans to ban most travel into the territory in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus within remote communities. The order restricts travel by land, air and port into the territory for non-residents, with some limited exceptions made for residents and supply-chain workers. If you have questions about how these travel restrictions might impact your business, please do not hesitate to contact us. 
Two cases have now been reported in Yukon, though no similar border restrictions have been announced. 
In a similar vein, effective March 20, 2020, all individuals who have arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador from anywhere, including within Canada, are required to self-isolate for 14 days. Other provinces have not announced restrictions on domestic travel. The Prime Minister confirmed this morning at his daily press conference that the possibility of domestic travel restrictions will be discussed on a call later today with the Premiers. 
Quebec and Ontario have announced intentions to shut down all non-essential businesses in the coming days. 



As we shared with you last week, Alberta has announced a temporary program for Albertans who must self-isolate because they meet the Government of Alberta's published criteria for self-isolation. The Government of Alberta's COVID-19 online resource should be consulted regularly for updates.
The program application will be made available at this week. 
This afternoon, the Government of Alberta announced additional measures to support Albertan households and businesses. These measures include a freeze on education property taxes; a deferral on education property tax for businesses; deferral of WCB premiums until early 2021; a 50% reduction of WCB premiums for small and medium sized businesses; a deferral on the collection of corporate income tax balances; utility payment deferrals; and others. For more information, visit the Government of Alberta's website referenced above. 
The Alberta Emergency Management Agency has created an "Unsolicited Offers Program" to respond to offers from individuals and organizations to help respond to COVID-19. This program includes the Alberta Purchasing Connection and the Emergency Response Data Base, allowing individuals and organizations to fill out an online form detailing what services they have to offer. If you are interested in offering assistance that you or your organization may be able to provide, consider visiting their website here.
On Friday, the Saskatchewan government also announced a self-isolation support program. Saskatchewan residents who are required to self-isolate and who are not covered by the recently announced federal programs will be eligible for $450 per week for a maximum for two weeks. Employees who are eligible for sick leave or vacation leave from their employers, or who have private insurance covering such disruptions will not be eligible. 
For businesses, the province announced a three-month PST remittance deferral and audit suspension. Businesses who are unable to file their provincial tax returns on time can request relief from any penalties and interest charges. A full list of provincial support measures announced to date can be found here.
In addition to previously discussed amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act, introducing a new "Public Health Emergency Leave", further amendments to The Employment Standards Regulationwere announced on Friday, March 20, 2020, and were effective Thursday, March 19, 2020.
The amendments to the Regulation mean that during a public emergency (such as the one that is in effect currently), employers and employees are exempt from the provisions of sections 2-60 and 2-61 of the Act respecting layoffs. Further, businesses will not have to provide notice or pay in lieu of notice when they lay off staff if it is for a period of 12 weeks or less in a 16-week period. If an employer lays off employees for a total of more than 12 weeks in a 16-week period, the employees are considered to be terminated and are entitled to pay instead of notice as already outlined in the Act. These exemptions to the Act apply only while a public emergency is in force as defined by the amended Regulation. 
On March 18, 2020 Saskatchewan announced a public state of emergency.  Broad restrictions on businesses were immediately imposed and should be reviewed by local employers via the Government of Saskatchewan website

We have received some questions from employers with operations in Regina, as the provincial and municipal states of emergency are conflicting in some respects. On Sunday, March 22, 2020, the provincial government clarified that provincial orders will supersede orders of municipalities. This means that in Regina, currently, public gatherings of more than 25 people in one room are prohibited except where two metre distancing between people can be maintained, notwithstanding the Regina municipal order which restricts gatherings of more than 5 people. 
For specific questions about how these orders impact your business, please contact us. 
In responding to the unprecedented situation presented by COVID-19 and its related impacts on business, we encourage employers to be open and honest in their communications with employees about what is known and what is not yet known. Legislative and policy changes are being announced regularly across jurisdictions. The interplay of Federal and Provincial schemes will also be relevant in many cases.
The application of the law to these current realities is a challenge, but we are prepared to apply our decades of cumulative expertise to help navigate this uncertain period.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you have specific questions about your workplace.


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