March 18, 2020

McLennan Ross Update for Wednesday

By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team

What we are seeing 

  • A state of emergency was declared in Alberta under the Public Health Act.
  • Many public facing businesses such as bars and nightclubs, recreational and entertainment facilities have been directed to close or, in the case of restaurants and other food serving facilities, are limited to 50% capacity with mass gatherings being limited to 50 attendees. This does not apply to all businesses generally or to employers with more than 50 employees.
  • The Calgary Emergency Management Agency is requiring international travelers to self-isolate when they arrive in the city, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. No similar order has been made for Edmonton, although international flights may no longer be landing there.
  • The Alberta Dental Association and College has issued a mandatory suspension of all non-emergency dental treatment and services. Dentists may continue to provide emergency treatment as outlined in this message. At a minimum, Dentists must still provide telephone access to address patients’ continuity of care. 

What we are hearing

  • We anticipate that the regulation formally implementing the Government’s announcement of the 14-day paid leave entitlement under the Employment Standards Code will soon be signed and then implemented. Similar legislation in Ontario was made retroactive to January 25, 2020. Although we believe Alberta’s legislation will also be retroactive, we do not know what the start date will be.   
  • The Alberta Workers Compensation Board has issued a COVID-19 Worker Fact sheet, which can be located here
  • McLennan Ross LLP will be providing an email alert on WCB issues shortly. 

What we are saying

  • As dental clinics are being told to postpone treatments, but still provide emergency dental services moving forward, there is an issue of having enough staff on call to assist with an emergency and not employing them full-time. Some alternatives include short-term hour reduction agreements by consent and an Employment Insurance benefit top up agreement where employers agree to top up employee EI benefits to a percentage of the employee’s historic wage rate in exchange for being on-call from emergencies.
  • In light of the declaration of the state of emergency, we again remind employers that sections 52.91 and 52.6(1.1) of the Public Health Act state that no employer shall terminate, restrict, or in any way discriminate against an employee for an absence from employment that is in respect of and occurs during a public health emergency and that is due to the employee being ill or caring for family members who are ill. It is very likely that anyone who is directed to self-quarantine, even if not showing signs of illness, would be protected by these provisions of the legislation.

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