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COVID-19: Yukon Reopening Frequently Asked Questions

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Reopening the economy

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

The Yukon government announced it’s reopening plan, A Path Forward, on May 15, 2020. Yukon enters Phase 1: Restart on May 15.

Which sectors in Yukon are currently allowed to open?

Businesses and service providers that weren’t ordered to close may continue to operate as long as they have a COVID-19 operational plan and have put safety precautions in place. Businesses such as personal services and restaurants are still (as of May 19, 2020) ordered to close under the Health Officer’s orders. Once the order expires or has been lifted, restaurants and personal services will be able to open up again once they’ve prepared operational plans based on the guidelines that are currently being developed by government, and have had them approved. Restaurants and personal services must submit their operational plan to [email protected] for review by Environmental Health Services. Please refer to the Orders and directions: COVID19 webpage from the Yukon government for updates to all orders.

The Yukon government has ordered the following services to be closed, until further notice:

  • Bars
  • Personal Services (hair salons, barber shops, tattoo parlous, nail salons and massage therapy)
  • Restaurants for seated service (take-out and delivery service exempted)
  • Non-urgent dental treatment
  • Certain recycling services, libraries, and campgrounds (see here for full detail, under “Closures”)
Are there any fines for opening my business, if it is not considered essential or if it has not been reopened by government?

Rules and requirements that are the law, and therefore legally enforceable. If someone violates an order, they may be charged. Charges under the Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) may include fines up to $500, up to 6 months in prison, or both. Charges under the Public Health and Safety Act (PHSA) may include fines of up to $5,000/day.

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, 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.

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 Ministry of Labour. A Ministry of Labour inspector will investigate the claim. Please contact your Business Resources department for further details.

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

All employees, unless they are part of the Employment Standards Special Rule exemption, are eligible for Public Holiday Pay, as long as the employee worked their scheduled shift before the holiday and scheduled shift after the holiday, as per the “Last and First Rule”. Employees may also be entitled to holiday pay if they were not scheduled for the holiday shift or did perform duties on same day.

My employee has requested a 14-day unpaid leave during COVID-19, what does this mean?

The Yukon government introduced a new 14-day unpaid leave for employees during COVID-19, if they require it. An employee can take this leave if they or someone in their care is ordered to follow a health protection measure, such a self-isolation.  The length of the leave matches the amount of time people are recommended to self-isolate. While a doctor’s note is not required to access this leave, an employee must give their employer as much notice as possible. The leave must be taken all at once, and can only be accessed from March 27 to June 23, 2020.  Visit the Yukon government webpage for more detail.

Can my employee take another leave after the Infectious disease emergency leave?

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

  • Sick leave
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Compassionate Care Leave
  • Reservist Leave
  • Critically-ill Child Leave
  • Disappearance or Death of a Child Leave
Can I layoff an employee temporarily?

Under the Yukon Employment Standards Act, Temporary layoff is an interruption of the employee's employment by the employer for a period not greater than 13 out of 20 consecutive weeks. Termination occurs if the employee is on layoff for more than 13 out of 20 consecutive weeks, unless the Director has fixed a later recall date or unless the Employment Standards Board has ordered an extension of the layoff period, or both. Upon expiry of the layoff period, the employee is considered to have been terminated at the beginning of the period and pay in lieu of notice must be paid to the employee.

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

Termination notice is required after the employee completes 6 consecutive months of employment

with the employer. The amount of notice required depends on the length of time the individual was employed. The notice must be in writing and if the employer fails to do so, the employee may be entitled to 1 week’s wages for each week of notice to which they were entitled. For full details of how much pay in lieu is required, please refer to the Yukon Employment Standards Act or speak with your Business Resources team. While terminating an employee may seem like the only option, please consider speaking with your Business Resources team 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 employee’s health and safety rights?

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board recommends employers follow these general workplace guidance materials: (1) Follow the Government of Canada’s instructions on everyday practices that help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19; (2)Follow the Government of Canada’s guidance on how to keep your employees safe in the workplace; (3) Follow the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s (CCOHS) guidance on how to prepare your workplace so it remains healthy and safe during a pandemic.

In addition, the CCOHS has created a pandemic info-sharing portal, along with good practice tips sheets.

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

The Yukon government recommends all businesses should:

  • Enforce safe spacing measures in the workplace.
  • Encourage and support employees to work from home, if possible.
  • Undertake routine environmental cleaning.
  • Promote respiratory etiquette.
  • Promote regular hand-washing.
  • Encourage and support staff to stay home when they are ill.

While the Yukon Worker’s Compensation, Health and Safety Board and/or Yukon government have created guidelines for specific industries (see: guidance for retail food and grocery stores, retail workplace guidance, construction workplace guidance, manufacturing workplace guidance) to assist 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 current Occupational Health and Safety rules, such as having a violence and harassment policy and program, as well as health and safety policy and training 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 and you should contact your employee remotely to advise them to complete the online COVID-19 assessment, and call family physician or YK telehealth 1- 867-667-8033. 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.

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

If employee tested positive for COVID-19: report it to the Yukon Communicable Disease Control at 867-667-8323 or 1-800-661-0408 ext 8323.

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.

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 as this serves as the formal termination date.

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