April 14, 2020

McLennan Ross Update for Tuesday

By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team

What we are seeing
  • Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced additional measures to assist in helping track and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. An expansion of testing protocols will be implemented in order to better assess who has and can transmit the virus. As a large number of infections and deaths have occurred at continuing care facilities for seniors, the Government is directing that all employees wear masks when providing direct patient care or working in patient-care areas within two meters of other people and also that all workers in continuing care facilities would only be permitted to work at one site. As the workers who work at more than one facility generally do so to make additional income, those workers will presumably be foregoing some of their earnings.

What we are hearing
  • Over the Easter weekend, the Chief Public Health Officer of the Northwest Territories issued two new Public Health Orders. These are the second and third Orders issued from the Chief Public Health Officer, with the first Order, addressing travel restrictions and self-isolation, issued on March 21, 2020.
  • The second Order took effect on April 10, 2020 at 12:00 PM and was directed at remote work camps in the mineral and petroleum industries, which industries were exempted from the first Public Health Order. Employers in the mineral and petroleum industries must now ensure that employees complete 14 days of social isolation prior to travelling to a work camp. Employers are also required to complete a workplace risk assessment and to ensure that an employee completes a health screening prior to permitting an employee to travel to a work camp. In addition, employers are required to implement a number of safeguards once employees are at the work camp. Employers must:
    • Establish social distancing protocols and ensure compliance;
    • Have only the minimum number of employees at the site which are required to maintain operations;
    • Ensure that employees complete a health screening, including a temperature check, prior to beginning each shift;
    • Ensure that any employees displaying symptoms self-isolate in a designated part of the camp and that the Chief Public Health Officer is notified;
    • Establish disinfection procedures in specific areas of the camp and display signs with respect to use and disinfection procedures; and
    • Cease any buffet-style food services.
  • The third Public Health Order is directed at social gatherings, as well as the operation of certain businesses, and took effect on April 11, 2020 at 12:00 PM. This Order prohibits indoor social gatherings by individuals who do not live in the same household. Outdoor social gatherings of more than 10 people are also prohibited, but outdoor gatherings of less than 10 people are permitted, provided that individuals maintain a minimum distance of two meters from one another. This Order also formalizes a number of the Chief Public Health Officer’s recommendations with respect to the continued operation and closure of businesses:
    • Businesses and facilities that are considered a high risk for the spread of COVID-19, such as gyms, theatres, and restaurants, are required to close.
    • Essential businesses, including banks, gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, and liquor stores, are permitted to remain open, but are required to ensure distancing between customers and disinfection of surfaces. Businesses which are not high risk or essential may remain open, provided that they can comply with hygiene and distancing guidelines. 

 What we are saying
  • Some counsel are taking a “pens down” approach to litigation matters and using the state of emergency as an excuse to avoid moving court actions forward. The tolling of limitation periods and court deadlines, along with the closing of the courts to any non-emergent matters, does make it difficult for parties to make progress in litigation when one party clearly benefits from the delay. Despite that difficulty, reasonable requests for cooperation to move matters forward that are ignored or rejected for no reason can still be used as evidence in court matters once the courts are reopened. Counsel and parties should therefore be cautious and keep in mind that once the pandemic is past, conduct during the state of emergency may very well become relevant when making or opposing applications.

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