April 13, 2020

McLennan Ross Update for Monday

By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team

What we are seeing
  • Parliament passed legislation enabling the 75% Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program. Now enacted, it is estimated that employers will start receiving the subsidy in the next two to five weeks. We have had many questions about this program, and we will be providing an alert with more details on it.
  • OPEC+ announced a 9.7 million barrel cut in production on April 12, 2020, hoping to create a floor for oil prices. With the drastic reduction in use, along with the increase in production from Russia and Saudi Arabia, Alberta feared that oil could have a negative price at some point in the near future.
  • The Government of Alberta announced that Alberta Health Services has procured more Personal Protective Equipment than Alberta will need and thus the province will contribute supplies to other provinces with greater needs, including 250,000 N95 masks to each of Ontario, Quebec, and BC. This generous action suggests there will not be further concerns in Alberta about the availability of N95 masks for healthcare professionals and also that Alberta may be getting ahead of projections for illnesses.

What we are hearing
  • On April 8, 2020, the Ontario Government announced extended hours of work for essential construction projects, such as critical projects in the health care sector, to 24 hours a day, tolling local noise bylaws and thereby allowing essential construction projects to operate 24 hours a day. Non-essential construction projects are still limited to operating from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM.)
  • These temporary enactments are in part an effort to provide site managers with greater flexibility to enforce recommended physical distancing protocols, including the ability to stagger shifts, limit the number of people in one place, and take other reasonable precautions to keep workers safe and healthy. 
  • There is a petition circulating to make golf an essential service. Given it is an outdoor activity where physical distancing can easily be maintained, it will be interesting to see whether the Government allows this part of the economy to function as the weather improves and people want to be outside.

What we are saying
  • Essential businesses which require employees to attend at work in order to function continue to struggle with ensuring employees are and stay free of the COVID-19 virus. Most employers have been able to implement workplace protocols to ensure that, once at work and working, employees are not exposed to the virus. A bigger struggle has been stopping the acquisition and transmission of the virus while travelling to and from work or during breaks.
  • For example, the Canadian Construction Association has posted standardized protocols for all Canadian construction sites which, although designed for the construction industry, contain recommendations generally for reducing the chance of transmission of the virus, link here.
  • One of the specific recommendations is for workers to travel to site using individual modes of transportation. The issue is that often a worker’s socio-economic situation or a lack of parking makes such an option impossible and forces employees to carpool or take public transportation.

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