May 15, 2020

McLennan Ross Update for Friday

By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team

What we are seeing
  • The Government of Canada has continued to update its information regarding how additional income received by employees impacts Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) eligibility.
  • The Government updated the CERB to allow employees to earn income of up to $1,000 for each 4-week period and still be eligible for the benefit. What was unclear was whether the requirements that exist under the Employment Insurance (EI) system for employers to make additional payments to workers through a Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) plan applied to similar top ups for employees receiving the CERB. The Government of Canada confirmed that SUB plans do not apply to employees who are receiving the CERB.
  • Eligible individuals collecting the CERB receive $2,000 for a 4-week period and may earn up to $1,000 from other sources in each benefit period from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020. Amounts received by individuals from any employer in excess of the $1,000 threshold will create an obligation to repay CERB amounts in the future.
  • The Government of Canada also added information about whether being in receipt of a severance package would impact CERB eligibility. It had been unclear whether an employee was better off being placed on a temporary leave of absence and defer actual termination (and receipt of a severance amount) until the CERB had been received in full. It has now been clarified by the Government that "[a] severance payment does not impact an individual's eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit."

What we are hearing

  • The Government of Albert did announce the commencement of Stage 1 of the Province's relaunch strategy on May 13, 2020, which we summarized in an e-alert.
  • Due to elevated incidents of COVID-19 in the Province's two hotspots, the launch of Stage 1 was staggered in Calgary and Brooks with some business eligible to reopen on May 14, 2020 with others, such as hair salons and barber shops, and cafes, pubs, bars, and restaurants at 50% occupancy, having their reopening further delayed to May 25, 2020.
  • In Ontario, the Government announced the timing of limited business openings as part of its reopening strategy:
    • Certain types of businesses could reopen on a restricted basis on May 16, 2020, including golf courses, marinas, boat clubs and public boat launches, private parks and campgrounds, and business that board animals.
    • Other businesses will be able to reopen on May 19, 2020, again with restrictions including retail services that are not in shopping malls and have separate street front entrances, seasonal businesses and recreational activities for individual or single competitors, such as indoor and outdoor non-team sport competitions that can be played while maintaining physical distancing and without spectators (e.g., tennis,t rack and field, and horse racing), animal services (specifically pet care services, such as grooming and training), and regular veterinary appointments, indoor and outdoor household services that can follow public health guidelines (such as housekeepers, cooks, cleaning, and maintenance), non-essential construction, and certain health and medical services (such as in-person counselling).
  • Ontario will be providing an update on school closures and childcare early next week, with the expectation being that, like in Alberta, schools will not reopen this school year and the earliest recommencement will be September 2020.
  • The University of Alberta announced on May 14 that most classes in September 2020 will remain online, with some exceptions. The University of Calgary is taking a similar approach.

What we are saying
  • The Court of Queen's Bench released an update regarding future court operations. The Court issued as new Master Order which addressed criminal, civil and family matters. For civil matters, all hearings scheduled for between June 1 and June 26, 2020 were adjourned indefinitely; however, all special applications scheduled for at least 1/2-day hearing on or after June 29, 2020 were directed to proceed as scheduled, with information regarding filing deadlines for the parties. Further, all filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court continued to be suspended until June 26, 2020.
  • This Master Order is the clearest signal yet that the Court of Queen's Bench is confident that it can start hearing matters in person, albeit with significant restrictions. As special applications are often attended only by the counsel arguing the application with clients only sometimes in attendance, it is reasonable to conclude that these special applications will be proceeding with express direction limiting who can actually be in attendance. Trials will likely now be looked at to see how they can be effectively and fairly run while complying with public health directions. Regular applications, where 20 to 30 such applications are often scheduled in the same morning in the same courtroom and heard one after another, will require significant more logistical planning.
  • A harbinger for the process the Court is considering is an announced Family Docket Court being implemented in Calgary and Edmonton to triage family law files and assist in resolving issues using different processes.
  • In summary form, the Family Docket Court process is that one party files a Notice to Attend indicating the relief sought and the date the filing party requests the matter be heard. The Court will then review the Notice to Attend and will try to resolve the matter by way of a Consent Order or to schedule alternate dispute resolution. If neither of those options are possible, the Court will then schedule the matter for a more formal court hearing. For now, those hearings are limited to desk applications or special applications, but once suspensions are lifted, more options will become available.

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