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COVID-19: Newfoundland and Labrador Reopening Frequently Asked Questions

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Reopening the economy

When is the start of the first phase of reopening the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Newfoundland and Labrador moved to Alert Level 4 on May 11, 2020.

Which sectors in Newfoundland and Labrador are currently allowed to open?

Sectors allowed to open include:

  • Professional services such as accounting firms, law firms, and financial services can offer in-person services (work from home is encouraged where possible);
  • Non-essential retail stores can provide online/telephone sales with delivery and/or curbside pick-up;
  • Limited expansion of childcare services;
  • Garden centres can provide in-person sales and service;
  • Lawn care and landscaping;
  • Restaurants can offer take-out, delivery and drive-thru options (closed for in-person dining);
  • Animal daycares; and
  • Golf courses (with restrictions in place).
What do I need to know before I can reopen my business?

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has released workplace guidelines to prepare for reopening businesses.

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

No. In order to reduce exposure, you will need to follow public health guidelines, some of which are sector-specific, to ensure the safety of your employees and any general public with whom your business comes in contact.

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

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has released Foundation for Living with COVID. It outlines a five-stage process (known as alert levels) to reopen Newfoundland and Labrador. Each phase will be monitored by having a four-week assessment prior to shifting to the next alert level. Each alert level will release the 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?

If a business is found to be in violation of a public health order, it could be fined $5,000 to $50,000. Both the RNC and the RCMP have enforcement power. As businesses open up based on Alert Levels, they will have to adhere to the public health restrictions currently in place.

Employment Standards Act

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

Provide employee with as much notice as you can. You can send a registered letter to your employee letting them know the date of their next shift and/or hours, along with any relevant information they need such as a contact person, like a supervisor, if they have any questions or concerns.

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 to the Labour Standards division. A Labour Standards inspector will investigate the claim. Please contact your Business Resources Counsellor for further details.

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

If you laid off your employee or they are on a leave of absence, they will not qualify for paid holiday pay for Good Friday. If your employee remains on payroll then they would be eligible for paid holiday pay, providing they meet the eligibility criteria.

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

The Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Standards Act outlines an employee’s minimum entitlement upon termination, which includes termination notice or pay, depending on the length of employment. While this may seem like the only option, please consider speaking with your Business Resources Counsellor as this can be a sensitive time to make this decision.

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.

Occupational Health and Safety

What are my employees’ health and safety rights?

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

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

While the Newfoundland and Labrador government has created guidelines to assist as you reopen 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 customer and employee; and/or having a supply of hand sanitizer, paper towel, and soap for employees on site.

Along with creating preventative measures for your business, you should also aim to comply with the current occupational health and safety rules, such as having a violence and harassment policy and program, a health and safety policy/program, and training for your employees on Health and Safety Awareness.

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

If your employee is ill, the employee must be sent home. You should contact your employee remotely to advise them to complete the online COVID-19 assessment and call a family physician or public health at 811. You should create a list of their whereabouts in the workplace, including, but not limited to: the washroom, workstations, lunchroom, and equipment used. You can then assign a staff member to disinfect areas. If possible, also compile a list of staff they worked with during their shift.

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

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the Public Health division will conduct contact tracing and notify the employer, providing guidance on next steps.

What should I know about how WorkplaceNL will handle COVID-19 situations?

Currently, WorkplaceNL will not be accepting claims from workers who feel they were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.

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

Employees have the right to refuse working in what they consider an unsafe environment. If this is the case, remind your employees of the preventive measures that have been 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. If the employee feels that the matter has not been resolved satisfactorily, then they have the right to report their concerns to the Occupational Health and Safety Division. Please contact us for further details on this topic.

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

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

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