COVID-19: Provincial Impact & Legislation Changes

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

COVID-19 has prompted several provinces to amend/create Acts to better support workers during a public health emergency and any other future emergencies.



Alberta ESA Temporary Workplace Rules


The province of Alberta has implemented temporary measures to help employees and employers manage during these critical times.


The following amendments/additions are in effect for the duration of public health emergency and until the government deems it is no longer needed:


  • Created an unpaid job-protected leave for employees caring for children where the school or daycare has closed, ill, or self-isolated family members due to COVID-19. Waived the 90 day employment requirement. The length of the leave is flexible and linked to the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer and a medical note is not required. This does not apply to self-employed individuals or contractors.

  • There is no need for the 24-hour written notice of shift change, and the 2 weeks notice for changes to work schedule for those who’s schedule varies.

  • Employers do not need to provide group termination notices to 50+ employees and unions that are being terminated, but individual entitlements are still in effect, and employers must still give group termination notices to the Minister of Labour and Immigration as soon as possible.

  • Increased the maximum time for temporary layoffs to 120 days from 60 days related to COVID-19 that has occurred on or after March 17 and is retroactive to that date.


The province of Alberta is asking both the employers and employees to consider using vacation pay, leave or banked overtime if possible. Employees may request to use their vacation or banked overtime, but employers are not required to grant the request as per Albert ESA, employers are only required to provide vacation pay and leave within a year of it being earned and banked overtime within 6 months of it being earned. Employers may request employees to voluntarily take vacation leave and/or use their vacation pay or banked overtime, however, cannot force them to do so under Alberta ESA.


For full details regarding Alberta changes during COVID-19 please read the following:


Guidance for workplaces: https://www.alberta.ca/guidance-for-workplaces.aspx

Long-term illness and injury leave: https://www.alberta.ca/long-term-illness-injury-leave.aspx



British Columbia (BC) Employment Standards Act (ESA) – Bill 16


COVID-19 has prompted BC to make changes to protect workers during these times of uncertainty; effective March 17, 2020.


The first amendment added a section to Illness or injury leave (49.1): 1) if an employee is employed consecutively for 90 days with an employer, the employee is entitled up to 3 days of unpaid leave and 2) If employer requests the employee must provide reasonably sufficient proof that the employee is entitled to the leave as soon as possible.


The second amendment to the ESA added a section to allow employees to take unpaid job-protected leave if they are unable to work for reason relating to COVID-19 (52.12).


Employee eligibility are as follows:

  • diagnosed with COVID-19 and are acting on medical instructions or advice; employees request leave due to: in quarantine or self-isolation in accordance with Provincial Health Officer orders, orders made under the Quarantine Act (Canada), or guidelines of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control or Public Health Agency of Canada;

  • due to concern about the employee’s exposure to others the employer has directed the employee to not work;

  • providing care to (a) a child under their care or as their parent or guardian or (b) a person 19 years of age or older who is incapable of obtaining the required necessities of life, or withdraw from the charge of their parent or former guardian, or is under the care of the employee who is the person’s parent or former guardian; and

  • the employee is outside the province and cannot return because or travel of border restrictions.


The COVID-19 leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020. If employees are terminated due to COVID-19 reasons on or after January 27, 2020, they are protected, and those employers must offer the employee re-employment for the same or comparable position.


For full details regarding Bill 16 please visit BC Legislative Assembly: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/5th-session/bills/progress-of-bills


For BC ESA please visit: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/96113_01#section52.12



Saskatchewan Employments Standards Act – Bill 207


Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the province of Saskatchewan has amended a few areas of the ESA; effective March 17, 2020 and is retroactive to March 6, 2020.


Under the section ‘Vacations, Public Holidays, Leaves and Absences - Leaves: Family, Medical, Service, Interpersonal Violence and Public Health Emergency’ a new section as been added to govern emergencies such as COVID-19.


The Public Health Emergency Leave is to assist employees and protect their jobs when they have been directed to isolate as instructed by their employer, the government, their doctor, or the chief medical health officer of the province.


This leave entitlement is for the length of time they are ordered by their employer, the government, their doctor, or the chief medical health officer of the province and may vary because of individual circumstances. The protected leave is for as long as the public health order is in place.


The leave is unpaid and is intended for those who are required to isolate themselves, or care for their child or a member of their family who is eligible.


There are no minimum days which an employee must have worked with an employer to be eligible for this leave.


Those who provide critical public health and safety services are not eligible for Public Health Emergency Leave, however, may be eligible if they are directed to isolate by a doctor, the Government of Saskatchewan or the Chief Medical Health Officer.


For full details on the amendments to the Saskatchewan Employment Standards Act please visit: http://docs.legassembly.sk.ca/legdocs/Bills/28L4S/Bill28-207.pdf



Newfoundland Labour Standards Act - Chapter C-37.03


COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act came in to effect on March 26, 2020 and is retroactive to March 14, 2020 in response to the pandemic of COVID-19.


The COVID-19 Pandemic Response Act has added Communicable Disease Emergency Leave to the Labour Standards Act (section 43.38, 43.39, 43.40, 43.41).


43.38

Definitions introduced to explain the parties involved in this section and meaning. Please go directly to the ESA to see further details.


43.39

1) Eligible employees are entitled for an unpaid leave of absence if the employee is:

  • under individual medical investigation, supervision or treatment;

  • acting in accordance with an order under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act;

  • in isolation or quarantine or is subject to a control measure, including self-isolation, and the quarantine, isolation or control measure was implemented as a result of information or directions issued to the public, by the Chief Medical Officer of Health or the Government of the province whether through print, electronic, broadcast or other means;

  • under a direction given by their employer in response to a concern of the employer that the employee may expose others in the workplace;

  • providing care or support to an individual referred to in subsection (4) that concerns that individual including a school or child care service closure;

  • directly affected by travel restrictions, under the circumstances cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province; and

  • other reasons prescribed in the regulations.


2) Employers may request employees to provide evidence reasonable to the circumstance in a reasonable timeframe and does not require a medical certificate as evidence.


3) Employees are entitled to take leave starting on the date as prescribed in the regulations and for as long as (a) employees are not performing the duties of their position because of a reason referred to employees eligibility of the leave; and (b) the communicable disease is designated by the regulations for the purpose of this section.


4) Providing care or support to the following individuals:

the employee's spouse;

  • a parent, step-parent or foster parent of the employee or the employee's spouse;

  • a child, step-child or foster child of the employee or the employee's spouse;

  • a child who is under legal guardianship of the employee or the employee's spouse;

  • a brother, step-brother, sister or step-sister of the employee;

  • a grandparent, step-grandparent, grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or the employee's spouse;

  • a brother-in-law, step-brother-in-law, sister-in-law or step-sister-in-law of the employee;

  • a son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the employee or the employee's spouse; and

  • any individual prescribed in the regulations as a family member for the purposes of this section.


5) This leave does not cover exempted class of employees from the application of this section by the regulations.


43.40

Employees are protected and cannot be dismissed or be given notice of dismissal because they intend to take, apply for or take leave under the Communicable Disease Emergency Leave.


The employee is dismissed by the employer for an unrelated reason (not from this section) and the onus is on the employer to show reason of dismissal is not to the leave.


The employee shall have the same or equivalent position they held prior to the leave and not less than what they what they had before the leave.


Providing both the employer and employee agree, once the employee returns to work, their employment status is considered to have been continuous prior to the leave.


43.41

The Lieutenant-Governor in Council may make regulations:

  • designating a communicable disease;

  • prescribing reasons related to a designated communicable disease for other prescribed reasons; prescribing the start date on which the employee is entitlement to leave;

  • prescribing family members for leave purposes to individuals entitled to the leave;

  • exempting a class of employees from the application of Communicable Disease Emergency Leave or any provision of it, and imposing one or more terms or conditions of employment or one or more requirements or exclusions that shall apply to employees in the class and their employers;

  • providing that a term, condition, requirement or exclusion prescribed under the section exempting class applies in place of, or in addition to, a provision of the eligibility of the Communicable Disease Emergency Leave; and

  • providing for any provisional matter that is considered necessary or advisable in connection with the implementation.


Regulations made under this section may provide that 1) it has an effective date specified in the regulation or 2) an employee has started the leave who does not perform the duties of their position because of the prescribed reason related to the designated communicable disease on or after the date specified in the regulation.


Regulations made under this section can also be retroactive.


For the full details on the legislation changes please visit: https://www.assembly.nl.ca/legislation/sr/annualstatutes/2020/C-37.03.chp.htm


For the Newfoundland Labour ESA please visit: https://www.assembly.nl.ca/legislation/sr/statutes/l02.htm#43_38

Legislations are updated as, and when needed, due to changing circumstances. Some of the amended legislation is directly due to COVID-19, some are temporary and will be repealed once the situation is diffused, while other legislation has been implemented for future considerations. Please visit your provincial sites to get the latest updates on changes to legislation and for the complete details.


Visit our website regularly to view the latest “News and Updates” on issues that impact you, your business and the industry.


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