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COVID-19: Alberta Reopening Frequently Asked Questions

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Reopening the economy

When is the start of the first phase of reopening the economy in Alberta?

Alberta initiated its relaunch strategy on May 4 and announced that some outdoor businesses could begin opening on May 2, with additional businesses to begin reopening on May 14, 2020.  All businesses are expected to develop and implement policies and procedures to address COVID-19 prior to re-opening or continuing operations.

The following businesses have been allowed to reopen:

  • Golf courses. See specific guidelines here.
  • Dental and other regulated health-care workers such as physiotherapists, respiratory therapists, audiologists, and more can resume services as long as they follow approved guidelines set by their professional colleges.
  • Outdoor shooting ranges. See specific guidelines here.

The following businesses can reopen on May 14:

  • Retail businesses such as clothing, furniture and bookstores
  • Some personal services, such as hairstyling and barber shops
  • All farmer’s market vendors
  • Museums and art galleries
  • Daycares with limits on occupancy
  • Summer camps with limits on occupancy (this could include summer school)
  • Cafés, restaurants (minors allowed in liquor-licensed establishments) with no bar service to reopen for public seating at 50 per cent capacity

Other businesses will be allowed to reopen in Stage 2 and 3 of the relaunch strategy. See the government’s relaunch stagey for more information on when your businesses can reopen and specific industry guidance documents.

What do I need to know before I can reopen my business?

All businesses are expected to develop and implement policies and procedures to address COVID-19 prior to re-opening or continuing operations. The Alberta government has created a Workplace Guidance document for business owners to assist you.

If I am reopening my business, does that mean the threat of COVID-19 is over?

No, in order to prevent the spread, you will need to follow either the general guidance document or specific industry guidelines (such as work camps and golf courses) to ensure the safety of your employees and general public.

I am not on the initial list of businesses that can open, when can I open my business?

The Alberta government has released its relaunch strategy. It outlines a three-stage process to reopen Alberta. Each phase will be monitored and assessed prior to shifting to the next phase. Each phase will release a new set of workplaces, public spaces, and gatherings that can be open/available.  

Are there any fines for opening my business, if it is not considered essential or if it has not been reopened by government?

As of March 25, the Alberta government granted law enforcement agencies full authority to enforce public health orders. Anyone found in violation is subject to a $1,000 fine, and up to $500,000 for anyone with a subsequence offence or more serious violation.

Employment Standards Act

My business can be open, how do I re-call my employees?

Provide employees with as much notice as you can. The notice can be sent by registered mail or via email (be sure the notice includes the date of their next shift, hours, along with any relevant information they need such as a contact person they can reach out to, like a supervisor, if they have any questions or concerns). The employee MUST return to work within 7 days from the date of notice was served to the employee. Please contact Business Resources for further information.

My business is financially unstable, can I reduce my employees’ wages when they return to work?

You are required to give proper notice to employees prior to changing any terms and conditions, such as reducing working hours, pay or entitlements that you have promised in a job description or letter of offer. Any drastic changes to an employee agreement can cause an employee to file a constructive dismissal claim. Please contact Business Resources for further information.

Does my employee qualify for the Easter Holiday pay, even when they when they weren’t scheduled to work due to COVID-19?

Yes, if the employee has worked 1 year prior to the holiday, has either worked their last scheduled shift prior to the holiday and their first scheduled shift after the holiday. Please contact Business Resources with questions regarding other variations to an employee’s work schedule.

My employee is not returning due to the Alberta 14-day COVID-19 emergency leave - what does this mean?

The Alberta government has created job-protected unpaid leave for employees caring for children affected by school and daycare closures, is self-isolating or has self-isolated family members due to COVID-19. This means:

  • The 90-day employment requirement is waived
  • The leave length is flexible and linked to guidance from the Chief Medical Officer
  • A medical note is not required
Can my employee take another leave after COVID-19 14-day unpaid leave?

Depending on an employee situation, they may be entitled to another leave under the Employment Standards Act such as:

  • Personal and family responsibility leave
  • Compassionate care leave
  • Long-term illness and injury leave
  • Critical illness leave
  • Bereavement leave
  • Find out more here.
What are the rights of my employees that are on a provincial leave?

Your employee is entitled to return to work to the same job or comparable job, without penalty, be able to continue to receive their benefits (if opted in) and continue to add to years of service within your business.

I am considering terminating my employee at this time, what should I know?

If you are moving from a layoff to a termination, 1-2 weeks' notice is not required because notice was provided when the layoff was made.

If you are terminating an employee who has not been laid off a notice of 1-8 weeks is required depending on the length of time the employee has been employed, an employer can end employment by:

  • Providing the employee with the appropriate amount of notice
  • In lieu of notice can pay the employee their wages for the notice period
  • Combination of both notice and pay in lieu of notice

If an employee has been with the employer under 90 days, notice is not required by either party.

My employee has decided to resign, what should I do?

If the employee has decided to part ways, the employee should give you a letter of resignation for your records. As an employer you need to complete an ROE with Code E (“Quit”). Here’s a guide to completing the ROE or block by block instructions.

Occupational Health and Safety

What are my employee health and safety rights?

Occupational Health and Safety requires employers to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of their workers. An employee has the right to participate by providing feedback to their employer, the right to know any hazards they may be exposed to, and the right to refuse work in an unsafe environment.

What should I have in my workplace to maintain a safe environment?

While the Alberta government has created guidelines to assist you in reopening your business, every business is different, and you should assess your business operations to address potential risks. Preventative measures can include installing physical distancing signage, adding plexi-glass to create a barrier between customers and employees, and/or having a supply of hand sanitizer, soap and paper towel for employees on site.

Along with taking preventative measures for your business, you should also aim to comply with current Occupational Health and Safety rules, such as having a violence and harassment policy and program, as well as a health and safety policy and training for your employees.

My employee feels ill, do I have to send them home?

If your employee is ill, the employee must be sent home and they should complete Alberta’s online COVID-19 assessment to determine if they should be tested. You should create a list of their whereabouts in the workplace, including but not limited to: the washroom, workstations, lunchroom, and equipment used, so that you can assign a staff member to disinfect areas. If possible, also compile a list of staff they worked with during their shift. An employee maybe asked to forward the reporting to Alberta Health Services.

What if I find out my employee has been exposed to COVID-19 at work, who do I notify?

It is legally required for individuals to be in isolation for a minimum of 10 days if they have tested positive for COVID-19. For clarity, the isolation period is 10 days from the start of symptoms, or until symptoms resolve, whichever takes longer.

If an employee or volunteer is confirmed to have COVID-19, and it is determined that other people may have been exposed to that person, Alberta Health Services (AHS) may be in contact with your business to provide the necessary public health guidance. Records may be sought up to two-weeks prior to the individual becoming ill. Employers should work cooperatively with AHS to ensure those potentially exposed to the individual receive the correct guidance.

What if my employees are refusing work due to COVID-19 concerns?

Employees have the right to refuse working under what they consider unsafe environment. If this is the case, remind your employees of the preventive measures that have put in place, and the safety products available to them. Communicate to the employee that their safety is your priority.

You may choose to reassign work, perhaps allowing them to work from home. In this case, the employee must receive the same wages and benefits as they would have received under their previous assignment. Please contact Business Resources for further information on this topic.

Can I hire a replacement to an employee on a leave?

You can hire temporary employees to replace employees who are on leave. When hiring temporary staff, provide them with a contract that details their terms and conditions – as well as a termination date as this serves as the formal termination date.

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