By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team
What we are seeing
- We have previously covered in great detail the various Alberta legislation and orders that amended statutory limitation periods due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most specifically, the Ministerial Order 27/2020, which delayed certain limitation periods from March 17 to June 1, 2020. A link to that order is here.
- On July 27, 2020, the federal Bill C-20 received Royal Assent and enacted the Time Limits and Other Periods Act (COVID-19) that similarly addresses time limits included in federal legislation, including the Divorce Act, rules for civil cases in the Federal Court, and some key regulatory matters. The suspension is retroactive to March 13, 2020 and extends the time limits for a maximum duration of 6 months (until September 13, 2020):
- The Act automatically suspends time limits established under federal legislation for starting a civil legal proceeding or doing something in a civil legal proceeding from March 13, 2020 to September 13, 2020, unless an earlier date is fixed by order; and
- Federal ministers may extend or suspend time limits and other periods in specific federal legislation for which they are responsible.
What we are hearing
- Bill 24, the Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act, received Royal Assent and came into force. The Bill retroactively (from May 15, 2020) amends three Acts, the Personal Directives Act, the Powers of Attorney Act, and the Wills and Succession Act to permit remote witnessing and execution of estate planning documents, when legal services are provided by a lawyer and all parties are able to communicate in real time by video conference. The amendments also permit estate planning documents to be signed in counterpart. The amendments only stay in force until August 2022 unless renewed. We expect the Government of Alberta will consult with legal practitioners in the area to measure the impact of this amendment to see if remote witnessing and execution should be allowed permanently. A copy of Bill 24 can be found here.
What we are saying
- As we have discussed previously, the Government of Canada has announced that it will not be extending the eligibility period for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) beyond 24-weeks. Employers will soon be facing situations where they must recall employees who may have been the subject of a temporary layoff or risk the employee looking for replacement income elsewhere and not being available to return once the employer has a need to expand the workforce. A question that has arisen is whether an employer can apply for and receive the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for amounts paid by the employer to an employee who is not actively at work. From a review of the online information published by the Government of Canada, the answer appears to be yes.
- The Government of Canada published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) web page for the CEWS, access the link here. One question answered on the FAQ is whether an employer can claim the CEWS for an employee that the employer hires back and pays retroactively, presumably without the employee having supplied services during that retroactive period. The FAQ states that “[i]t is possible for an eligible employer to hire back eligible employees and pay them retroactively in respect of a claim period, to be able to qualify for the wage subsidy.”
- The Government of Canada has also published a backgrounder, link here, for the recent changes to the CEWS program that states that certain employers can receive the CEWS for furloughed employees, for which benefits would be adjusted to be aligned with the CERB amount received by the employee.