April 8, 2020

McLennan Ross Update for Wednesday

By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team

What we are seeing

  • Premier Kenney, in his televised address to the Province on April 7, 2020, provided some stark economic projections for Alberta. He suggested it possible that oil could have a negative price if the price war initiated by Saudi Arabia and Russia continued without a response and also predicted Alberta’s budget deficit would triple from $7 billion to almost $20 billion. Earlier in the day, he warned that Alberta could see a 25% unemployment rate. You can read the text of Premier Kenney’s address here
  • The Canadian Government has still not announced any financial assistance for the energy industry, even though such assistance was described by the government as imminent as early as March 19, 2020. 
  • McLennan Ross participated in a cross-country webinar yesterday with Advocates for Employers of Canada (AEC) to address both the common and different practical and legal issues being faced by employers throughout Canada. There were just under 1,000 attendees. McLennan Ross is a member of AEC to provide our clients with seamless assistance across the country and beyond.

 What we are hearing

  • Occupational Health and Safety Alberta has issued COVID-19 information sheets as well as updated certain of its previous information sheets to provide guidance regarding Occupational Health and Safety issues during the pandemic. Two that have specific application are respiratory viruses and the workplace (here) and working from home during a pandemic (here). The latter contains information and direction for both employees and employers. A key direction is to establish a contact schedule and a working alone contact for each worker. 
  • The McLennan Ross LLP Labour & Employment Group is presenting a webinar on April 9, 2020 on key issues for employers managing a virtual workplace. More information can be found here. One topic to be discussed will be Occupational Health and Safety issues.

What we are saying

  • Employers whose office space continues to be open during the pandemic have the positive obligation to ensure that it is providing a safe workplace for its employees. This does not go so far as an employer guaranteeing that no employee will contract COVID-19 from attendance at work. 
  • Many employers are issuing policies that state that if an employee is, or is potentially, exposed to the virus, that employee must not re-attend at work and should immediately self-quarantine. An issue arises then as to what should an employer do if it believes but is not certain that an employee has not adhered to this policy. 
  • Just like complaints of workplace misconduct which required investigation before the pandemic, employers should move quickly to ensure that the workplace is safe, but then proceed methodically to ensure it has a full factual record before implementing any discipline as a result of an alleged breach of the employer’s COVID-19 policy. 
  • Making a rash decision without a full investigation can expose an employer to a multitude of possible legal claims. As with most such issues, we recommend consultation with experienced labour and employment counsel in such circumstances.

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