COVID-19: Cross country update (March 24, 2020)

March 24, 2020


The Government of Canada announced the following measures:

The House of Commons reconvened March 24 to adopt the emergency financial support measures outlined by the federal government last week.  However, shortly after proceedings began, the Chamber suspended itself so the Liberal government and opposition parties could negotiate the details of the bill.


British Columbia

The Government of British Columbia announced the following measures:

The British Columbia Employment Standards Act has been amended to add two new unpaid leaves:

1. Illness or injury leave

After 90 consecutive days of employment, an employee is entitled to up to three days of unpaid leave in each employment year for personal illness or injury.  If requested by the employer, the employee must provide reasonably sufficient proof that he or she is entitled to illness or injury leave.

2. COVID-19 related leave

An employee is entitled to unpaid leave if, in relation to COVID-19, any of the following applies:

  • the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is acting in accordance with instructions from a medical health officer, medical or nurse practitioner or registered nurse;
  • the employee is in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with an order of the provincial health officer or made under the Quarantine Act (Canada) or the guidelines of the BC Centre of Disease Control or Public Health Agency of Canada;
  • the employer, due to concerns about the employee’s exposure to others, has directed the employee not to work;
  • the employee is providing care to an eligible person, including because of the closure of a school or daycare or similar facility;
  • the employee is outside the province and cannot return to British Columbia because of travel or border restrictions; or
  • a prescribed situation exists relating to the employee.

The right to COVID-19 related leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020 and continues for as long as a circumstance described above applies.

If requested by the employer, the employee must, as soon as practicable, provide the employer reasonably sufficient proof that a circumstance described above applies.  However, an employer must not request, and an employee is not required to provide, a note from a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner or registered nurse for these purposes.

COVID-19 related leave may be repealed by order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.



The Government of Ontario announced the following measures:

At-risk workplaces are to close by 11:59 p.m. EST on March 24.  This does not apply to essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, telecommunications and IT infrastructure service providers, and businesses that support power generation, natural gas distribution and clean drinking water.  See the full list.  Essential businesses are asked to take any and all measures to safeguard the well-being of their employees on the front-lines.

Teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses.  The government encourages businesses to explore opportunities to continue operations through work-from-home and innovative business models.

Electricity rate relief will be provided to residential, small businesses and farms paying time-of-use (TOU) rates.  For a 45-day period, the government is working to suspend TOU electricity rates, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour.  This reduced price will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week.  The discount will be applied automatically.

On March 23, Ontario enacted a new order under the March 17, 2020 declaration of emergency that gives long-term care homes the ability to free up valuable staff, identify staffing priorities, and develop, modify and implement redeployment plans.  Specifically, under this temporary order, long-term care homes will be able to:

  • Redeploy staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the health service provider;
  • Change the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
  • Change the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
  • Defer or cancel vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
  • Employ extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
  • Use volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining unit work; and
  • Provide appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan.

These redeployment plans temporarily supersede the provisions of a collective agreement, including lay-off, seniority/service or bumping provisions.



The Government of Quebec announced the following measures:

On March 23, Quebec passed an Order in Council suspending all visits to long-term care facilities and private residences for the elderly, as well as prohibiting non-supervised excursions by residents of such facilities, subject to certain exceptions. Deadlines under many provisions of the Code of Penal Procedure were also suspended.

Pursuant to Premier Legault’s announcement of March 23, 2020, all non-essential businesses must be closed as of March 25 at 12:01 a.m. EST. The list of essential businesses continues to be updated, along with a form allowing for the verification of the designation of a business as essential.

In a press conference held on March 23, Premier Legault confirmed that the government would find ways to allow manufacturers to maintain minimal activity where such maintenance is mandatory in order to be able to recommence activity on April 14.

Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé les mesures suivantes:

Le 23 mars dernier, le Québec a adopté un arrêté qui suspend toute visite dans les établissements de soins de longue durée et les résidences privées pour personnes âgées, et qui interdit les sorties non supervisées des résidents de ces établissements, sous réserve de certaines exceptions. Plusieurs délais sous le Code de procédure pénale ont également été suspendus.

Conformément à l’annonce du Premier ministre Legault du 23 mars 2020, toutes les entreprises non essentielles doivent être fermées à partir de 00 :01 le 25 mars. La liste des entreprises essentielles continue d’être mise à jour, ainsi qu’un formulaire permettant de vérifier la désignation d’une entreprise comme essentielle.

Lors d’une conférence de presse tenue le 23 mars, le Premier ministre Legault a confirmé que le gouvernement trouverait des moyens de permettre aux manufacturiers de maintenir une activité minimale lorsque cette maintenance est obligatoire afin de pouvoir reprendre l’activité le 14 avril.


Newfoundland and Labrador

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced the following measures:

Effective March 24, all private health clinics, with the exception of physicians and nurse practitioners, must close.  Dentists, optometrists, physiotherapists, dietitians, chiropractors, psychologists, registered massage therapists, osteopaths, dental hygienists, acupuncturists and audiologists must close.

Effective March 23, the Chief Medical Officer of Health supplemented the list of businesses that had previously been ordered to close. The list, in its entirety, is as follows: gyms and fitness facilities; dance studios; cinemas; performance spaces; arenas; personal services establishments including spas, esthetic services, hair salons, body piercing, tattooing, and tanning salons; retail stores, unless those stores provide services essential to the life, health or personal safety of individuals and animals including food, pharmaceutical products, personal hygiene products, cleaning products, baby and child products; gas stations; computer and cellphone service and repair; electronic and office supplies, hardware supplies, or pet and animal supplies; businesses that hold a license under the Liquor Control Act whose primary purpose is the consumption of beer, wine, or spirits and that do not otherwise qualify as an exception under the order; and bingo halls.

Restaurants must close for in-person dining; take-out, delivery and drive-thru is permitted.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited. Funerals, visitations and weddings are limited to no more than 10 people.

All individuals arriving in Newfoundland and Labrador from outside the province must self-isolate for 14 days.


New Brunswick

The Government of New Brunswick announced the following measures:

Effective March 24, the provincial government announced a one-time income benefit of $900 for workers or people who are self-employed and have lost their job because of the state of emergency. The benefit will be administered through the Red Cross and is meant to help bridge the gap between the loss of income and when people are able to access benefits through Service Canada.

People entering New Brunswick from another province must now self-isolate for 14 days.


Prince Edward Island

The Government of Prince Edward Island announced the following measures:

Effective March 24, the provincial government announced that it will offer $100 supermarket gift cards to any employee laid off in the province. Employers are responsible for filling out applications for the Emergency Relief Program so that workers can access it. This program, along with emergency income relief for the self-employed and emergency working capital financing for small businesses, can be accessed on the government’s website.

The federal government has agreed not to claw back any of the “top up” that the province intends to provide to PEI residents on top of their employment insurance. The provincial government has also indicated that it is committed to continuing EI benefits for anybody whose entitlement is ending but lacks a seasonal job to return to.



The Government of Yukon announced the following measures:

Effective March 26, restaurants must offer take-out and delivery service only. Gatherings of more than 10 people are currently banned. All bars have been ordered closed indefinitely.

Effective March 25, all personal service establishments must close by end of day. This includes hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlours, nail salons, and massage therapists.


Northwest Territories

The Government of the Northwest Territories announced the following measures:

Effective March 24, the Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corporation has posted additional information about its economic relief resources for businesses. Existing clients may apply to defer loan payments for up to three months; new and existing clients may apply for a low interest working capital loan. Details are available on the BDIC website.


Miller Thomson is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation to ensure that we provide our clients with appropriate support in this rapidly changing environment. For articles, information updates and firm developments, please visit our COVID-19 Resources page.


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