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COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions about Reopening the Quebec Economy

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Reopening the Economy

Which economic sectors in Quebec are currently allowed to reopen?

As of September 21, all economic activity sectors are authorized to resume their activities except regular vacation camps with accommodation.

The recovery must take place in accordance with the health recommendations and the specific recovery guidelines for your economic sector. 

Note: Rules on reopening of economic activities and gatherings may vary according to the alert level in your region. You can refer to the following to learn the alert level in your region and the according government directives:

Office building occupancy

Return to work in offices is allowed but only up to a maximum of 25% of staff. 

For more details, please visit the Reopening of economic activities page on the government's website.

If I reopen my business, does that mean that the threat of COVID-19 has been eliminated?

No. You will need to follow the guidelines for your economic sector and comply with health recommendations in order to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and ensure the safety of your employees and customers.

Labour Standards

My business is allowed to reopen. How do I recall my employees?

Notify your employees as far in advance as possible. You can send them a registered letter or an email indicating the dates of their next working day, schedule and hourly rate (if the rate has changed), together with any other relevant information they may need.

If an employee refuses to report for work, please contact us for advice on how best to handle the situation.

My business has reopened, but some employees are still laid off after a six-month period. Do I have any special obligations?

Yes. When an employee is on temporary layoff for six months or more, he or she is entitled to notice of termination. Notwithstanding this time limit, such notice does not end the employment relationship. The length of notice varies depending on the employees’ continuous length of service, as shown in the following table:

3 months - 1 year 1 week
1 - 5 years 2 weeks
5 - 10 years 4 weeks
10 years or longer 8 weeks

Since the employee is already on layoff when notice is given, he or she must instead receive pay in lieu of notice. The amount of compensation is the salary that would have been earned if notice had been given within the prescribed time period. 

An employee has to isolate themselves because of COVID-19. What are my responsibilities as an employer?

Health and Safety

You must check to find out whether this worker has been in close contact with other employees. The Public Health service can help you determine what constitutes close contact and give you appropriate direction for your situation. They can be reached at 1-877-644-4545.


You are not required to pay your employees while they are away. They can apply for various government assistance programs, depending on which eligibility criteria they meet.

Protected Absences 

According to a ministerial decree (French only) adopted on  September 9, 2020, an employer is "prohibited from dismissing, suspending or displacing an employee, or from discriminating or retaliating against an employee if his or her absence from work is due to isolation as the result of a recommendation or an order from a public health authority and the employee is not in a position to work."

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

You must formally notify employees before making any changes in their working conditions, such as reducing the hours of work, wages or benefits promised in a job description or a letter of offer. A radical change to an employment contract may result in an employee filing a constructive dismissal complaint with the CNESST, which will then assign one of its inspectors to review the request. These situations can be complex to manage. Contact us at 1-888-234-2232 and speak to one of our Business Counsellors for personalized advice.

Is an employee entitled to holiday pay, even if they were not scheduled to work because of COVID-19?

To be eligible for holiday pay, workers must be actively employed by you at the time of the holiday. If a Record of Employment has been prepared for an employee and this person had not been recalled to work as of the date of the holiday, he or she is not entitled to holiday pay.

In the case of employees who have not returned to work but whom you have started paying again (e.g., through the wage subsidy program), it is as if they are back at work; as such, they are entitled to holiday pay.

Can employees take another leave after the government has forced me to close my business as part of the fight against COVID-19?

Your employees are entitled to their annual vacations. However, the decision as to when they take their vacations falls to you as their employer.

The Act respecting Labour Standards gives employees the right to take time off work for various situations, such as family obligations. 

If an employee notifies you of an absence and you have a question about his or her entitlement to do so, please call us and we will confirm whether or not it is an authorized absence. 

An employee has decided to resign. What do I need to do?

An employee who has decided to resign must submit a letter of resignation for your files. These situations can be complex to manage. Contact us at 1-888-234-2232 and speak to one of our Counsellors for personalized advice.

Occupational Health and Safety

What do I do if an employee refuses to work because of concerns about COVID-19?

Under the terms of the Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety, your employees have the right to refuse to come to work for health and safety reasons. The Act requires you to take these concerns into consideration and to respond to them to the extent possible. These situations can be complex to manage. Contact us at 1-888-234-2232 and speak to one of our Business Counsellors for personalized advice.

What are my employees’ health and safety rights?

The Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety requires every employer to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers. If protective equipment is needed, it is your responsibility as an employer to provide it.

What tools are available to help SMEs prepare for the re-opening under COVID-19?

In the run-up to the reopening of the economy, the CNESST has prepared a COVID-19 toolkit for employers and workers. It contains all the health and safety recommendations for your sector of activity. Workplaces tend to be unique, so we recommend that you use the CNESST recommendations as guiding principles to create a safe work environment specific to your company for your employees, suppliers, service providers and customers.

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Everything you need to know to navigate the crisis

During the  COVID-19 crisis, our primary concern at CFIB is making sure you have the support you need to get through this uncertain and challenging time. We will provide you with expert advice and ensure that you have all of the latest information on government announcements and available support.

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