March 25, 2020 COVID-19 Update

As the COVID-19 situation in Canada and around the world continues to develop rapidly, we are providing our eighth update to employers.  Below, we provide updates on Federal changes as well as changes in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and other jurisdictions.


We will continue to provide information as it becomes available.  We are available to answer any specific questions you may have.


GENERAL - Change in Terminology


Public health officials are beginning to prefer the terminology "physical distancing" rather than the prior language of "social distancing". This is to emphasize the importance of maintaining physical spacing of at least two (2) metres from persons in day-to-day interaction. It is also to emphasize that persons should continue to engage in acceptable forms of social contact, such as phone calls and video conferencing.


*The specific measurement varies from authority to authority, but the generally accepted figures used are two (2) metres or six (6) feet.


FEDERAL - Mandatory Quarantine Restrictions 


Effective March 26, 2020 at 12:01 am, the Canadian government has imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for Canadian citizens and permanent residents returning from international travel.  These persons will be informed by the Canada Border Services Agency that they must proceed immediately to their home and remain self-isolated there for 14 days.  These persons will not be permitted to take city buses, trains, and subways.  Certain exemptions will apply for essential workers.


As international flights are presently being routed through only four (4) international airports - Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary - individuals will be required to quarantine in those cities for the 14 days before connecting to any subsequent flights.  The Canadian government will provide accommodation and meals.  Further details from the Government are forthcoming as at the time of writing.


This measure is being made under the existing Quarantine Act, SC 2005 c 20.  Violations of the Actcarry potentially significant consequences, warranting up to three (3) years in jail or a fine of up to $1,000,000.


ALBERTA - Emergency Isolation Support Now Available


The Province of Alberta has now published information on its support payment program known as "Emergency Isolation Support" ("EIS").  It should be emphasized that this payment is only available to those who are compelled to self-isolate or are the sole caregiver for another person who is required to self-isolate.


The EIS is a one-time payment of $1,146 that can be provided to eligible individuals. It is intended to help individuals bridge the gap financially until Federal emergency care payments become available in April.**  Individuals eligible for federal Employment Insurance benefits are strongly encouraged by the Government of Alberta to apply for the EIS program.


Courtesy the Alberta Government EIS webpage, eligibility is as follows:


You are eligible for the emergency isolation support program if you:

  • have experienced total or significant loss of income and are not receiving compensation from any other source because you:
    • have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • have been directed by health authorities (Health Link 811) to self-isolate
    • are the sole caregiver of a dependent who is in self-isolation

You are not eligible for this program if you:

  • were not working immediately before you were advised to self-isolate
  • can work from home
  • are not experiencing a significant loss of income as a result of self-isolation
  • are currently collecting other forms of income support or employer benefits while self-isolated, such as:
  • are staying home to care for a dependent who is home for a reason other than self-isolation
  • reside outside of Alberta


To apply for EIS, you must use a MyAlberta Digital ID (MADI) account. A MADI account can be signed up for during the EIS application process using a driver's license or ID card number capable of confirming your identity.


Visit the Alberta Emergency Isolation Support webpage to submit an application. Approved applicants will receive the one-time payment of $1,146 through Interac e-Transfer within 24 to 48 hours.


**A separate Neuman Thompson update on available Federal supports, including Employment Insurance, is in development and will be available soon.


ALBERTA - Changes to Isolation Timelines for COVID-19


On March 24, 2020, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced amended self-isolation guidelines for those who are sick:

  • Individuals experiencing symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat, or shortness of breath, are being told to stay home until they are feeling well and at least 10 days has passed from the start of symptoms.
  • It remains the case that travellers from out of Canada, and people who had close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case, must self-isolate for 14 days. For persons observing this self-isolation period, if they start to experience symptoms, they will need to follow the 10-day guideline above. For example, a person observing a 14-day quarantine due to travel or close contact, who is on the 10th day of quarantine when they begin to feel sick, must observe at least another 10 days of quarantine. This would put the potential self-isolation period at a total of at least 20 days.

Employers must be aware of these changes in direction from the Chief Medical Officer and should consider that these directions may result in leaves of absences for certain employees extending longer than initially anticipated.


ALBERTA - Infection Clusters


The Alberta government has identified the McKenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary as a potential infection cluster.  Following this occurrence, the Chief Medical Officer indicated the province is continuing to look at additional measures to continuing care and long-term care facilities that could further reduce risks.  


Further infections of health care workers who attended the Edmonton Western Canadian curling bonspiel (March 11-14) have also been confirmed.  


SASKATCHEWAN - Fines for Violating Self-Isolation in Effect


Effective March 20, 2020, all travellers returning from international destinations are subject to a mandatory self-isolation order by authority of the Government of Saskatchewan.  Failure to comply may result in a fine of $2,000.


Limited exemptions exist, as provided by the Government of Saskatchewan publication:

  • Health Care workers who have traveled internationally, truckers, rail, airline or other working crews are exempt from this advisory only if they are required to work to maintain essential services, provide emergency health care services and maintain supply chain, and are supervised by Infection, Prevention Control Officers and/or Occupational Health and Safety in the workplace.

 The Government also reaffirmed the following requirements:

  • All persons who have been identified by a Medical Health Officer as a close contact of a person or persons with novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) shall go into mandatory self-isolation for 14 days from the date of last having been exposed to COVID-19.
  • All persons who have become symptomatic while on mandatory self-isolation shall call HealthLine 811 and follow HealthLine's directives.
  • All persons who are household members of a person having laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 shall immediately go into mandatory self-isolation, call HealthLine 811 and follow HealthLine's directives.

As of March 26, 2020, a mandatory period of quarantine will apply to all Canada citizens and permanent residents returning from international travel, in accordance with the Federal Quarantine Act.  See earlier in this update for details.


SASKATCHEWAN - Government Clarification on Discrepancies Between Municipal and Provincial Leave


The Government of Saskatchewan has also clarified that orders of the province supersede orders made by local municipalities. This was in response to conflicting guidelines simultaneously ordered by the province and the City of Regina on March 20, 2020.  If employers are confronted with what appears to be conflicting directions from different authorities, we encourage consulting with legal counsel.


SASKATCHEWAN - Launch of Business Response Team


On March 23, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan announced its launch of the province's "Business Response Team" to support businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of the program, led by the Ministry of Trade and Export Development, is to work with businesses to identify program supports available to them provincially and federally.


The Saskatchewan Business Response Team can be accessed via:

It is unlikely the Business Response Team can provide legal advice.  Employers should make use of these resources to the extent possible but are cautioned that reliance on representations made by Government employees does not prevent a business from incurring legal liability if those representations are later found inaccurate.


Saskatchewan businesses with proposals on how to help in the fight against COVID-19 have also been encouraged to direct submissions to the SaskBuilds Single Procurement Service, which is serving as a central point of contact and co-ordination. Their contact is .


Workers and businesses alike can access Government of Saskatchewan web resources for further assistance. 




Other critical updates arising in some jurisdictions which our clients operate include:


BC: Amendments to the BC Employment Standards Act have introduced two types of unpaid, job-protected leaves of absence. One type of leave is a three (3) day illness or injury leave, which will be a permanent amendment. The other leave is a COVID-19 specific leave, which will be temporarily available pending resolution of the COVID-19 situation.


Ontario: Ontario has closed all non-essential workplaces effective as of Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at 11:59pm. The closure will be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of an extension. These businesses can continue to operate remotely or through other contingency measures.


What is considered an essential workplace is identified in the  Government of Ontario's publication.  A government phone number and website is being developed for release on March 25, 2020 but is not yet live as at the time writing.


The Government of Ontario has also reached out to businesses and organizations looking to help. Visit their web resource for more information.


Quebec: Quebec has ordered the minimization of all non-priority services and activities, effective March 25, 2020 at 12:01am until April 13, 2020. The  Government of Quebec web resource should be consulted for emerging information. As with Ontario, teleworking and e-commerce activities are permitted to continue.


The Government of Quebec's primary webpage for updates as to the situation of the coronavirus in Quebec is located here (English) and here (Français). 


Neuman Thompson lawyers Jessica Thomson and Gabriel Joshee-Arnal and articling student Danica P. McLellan are bilingual and can assist with any French-language matters, should you have need.




It remains the case these are unprecedented and challenging times, both for employers and employees. We remain prepared to apply our decades of cumulative expertise to help navigate this fast-moving environment and to ensure businesses meet the challenge of today while preparing for tomorrow.


Do not hesitate to contact our team 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.