June 19, 2020

McLennan Ross Update for Friday

By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team
What we are seeing
  • As we just reported in our last blog, the Alberta Government introduced Bill 24 (COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act, 2020) on June 18, 2020. The bill proposes new amendments to legislation effective immediately that are deemed necessary as a result of the end of the public health state of emergency.
  • Important elements of Bill 24 relating to employers include:
    • Extending the temporary layoff period under the Employment Standards Code from120 days to 180 days, with the extension expressly applying to employees who are already on a layoff when the amendment was introduced;
    • Extending the unpaid job protected leave due to either infection, quarantine, or child or family care obligations arising from COVID-19 to August 2021; and
    • Increasing the number of children permitted in a cohort at a childcare facility from 10 to 20. This will provide employees who are being asked to return to work additional childcare options.

What we are hearing
  • Thus far, although discussion about whether masks should be mandatory when social distancing is not possible is ongoing, we have seen no indication that the local or provincial government intends to pass such a law any time soon. Thus far, the Chief Medical Officer for Alberta has been satisfied that the encouragement being given to Albertans to wear masks in certain situations will be sufficient, especially if infection and hospital rates stay stable.
  • Some businesses have implemented mandatory mask policies on their own. As a general rule, as business premises are private property, a policy to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask is enforceable. However, business owners should be cognizant that if a person cannot wear a mask for health or religious reasons, refusing service may constitute discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
What we are saying
  • Questions are arising about the collection and use of customer information as businesses reopen in Alberta. This arises from attempts to avoid COVID-19 infections from occurring and to assist in contact tracing if an infection does occur. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta (OPIC) has recently provided guidance about considerations for businesses to keep in mind to ensure they comply with Alberta's Privacy Information Protection Act (PIPA).
  • Some key takeaways from the OPIC guidance include:
    • Advance warning that information is going to be collected should be provided in advance via the organization's website, social media, or posters on the door to the workplace;
    • Written or oral consent from the customer must generally be obtained;
    • Notice must be given about why the information is being collected, which can be written or oral;
    • Only information legitimately required by the business as part of its COVID-19 policy can be collected; 
    • Safeguards must be in place to ensure that the information collected is not disclosed, accidentally or otherwise, to other customers (such as through the use of one sign-in sheet for all customers) or employees who do not need the information; 
    • Any information collected cannot be used for any other purpose, such as adding the customer to a subscription list;
    • If information used in the past for a specific purpose, such as online booking, is going to be used as part of a COVID-19 policy, notice of this additional use must be provided;
    • The name of the organization's representative who can speak to the collection, usu, and storage of the information must be provided if requested;
    • Customers have the right to subsequently demand access to any of their personal information collected by the organization; and
    • The organization should consider how long it must retain the information for business or legal purposes. 
  • We recommend that legal counsel be contacted in advance to assist with or review an information collection strategy as part of a COVID-19 policy.

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