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Your business and COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador

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  • Your business and COVID 19 in Newfoundland and Labrador

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To help you navigate these challenging times, this page provides information on pandemic-related restrictions, support measures, government services, and useful CFIB resources for Newfoundland and Labrador. You’ll also learn how CFIB is fighting for your business.

Update:
2021-02-26 – The Chief Medical Officer of Health announces that the Avalon Region will remain in Alert Level 5, the rest of the province will move to Alert Level 4. More information is available in Public Health Measures and Restrictions.

Use our operational plan template

Protecting your staff, customers, and business is a top priority, so we’ve put together an operational plan template to help you do just that. With tips for best practices, advice on meeting provincial compliance requirements, and links to downloadable COVID-19 resources, the plan is clear, concise, and easy to tailor to your needs.

DOWNLOAD NOW

Public health measures & restrictions

Alert Levels

The provincial government’s plan for re-opening the economy is based on five alert levels:

Alert Level 5

All business except those that offer services essential to life, health and safety must close. Restaurants may not offer in-person dining. Retail stores providing non-essential items may offer online/telephone sales with delivery and/or curbside pick-up options.

Alert Level 4

Recreational businesses (e.g., gyms, dance studios, yoga studios) remain closed. Restaurants may only offer delivery and/or take-out options. Retail stores can open at 50% capacity. Personal service establishments may open in accordance with guidelines. Private healthcare clinics can reopen in accordance with guidelines.

Alert Level 3

Retails stores can increase capacity providing physical distancing is maintained. Restaurants can re-open at reduced occupancy. Recreational businesses (e.g., gyms, dance studios, yoga studios) may open in accordance with guidelines. Bars, lounges, cinemas, and bingo halls remain closed.

Alert Level 2

Bars, lounges, cinemas and bingo halls may open with reduced occupancy.

Alert Level 1

Businesses are open but must operate according to the public health measures still in effect.

Sector-specific guidance is available for businesses, and the Business Response Team is available to support businesses as they navigate closures and public health guidance. The Team can be reached at 1-833-771-0696 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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

Avalon Region – Alert level 5 – February 12, 2021

Under Alert Level 5, the following must close:

  • Gym and fitness facilities (yoga studios, swimming pools, tennis and squash facilities, arenas)
  • Dance studios and performance spaces
  • Private health care clinics
  • Personal service establishments (spas, esthetic services, hair salons, barbers, body piercing, tattooing, tanning salons)
  • Cinemas
  • Bingo halls
  • Businesses that hold a license under the Liquor Control Act and whose primary purpose is the consumption of beer, wine or spirits 
  • Restaurants must close to in-person dining; take-out, delivery and drive-thru are still permitted.

Retail stores that do not provide services essential to lifer, health or personal safety of people or animals must close; however, online/telephone sales with delivery or curbside pickup are permitted.

Essential products include:

  • Food
  • Pharmaceutical products, medicine, medical devices
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Cleaning products
  • Baby and child products
  • Gas stations and garages
  • Computer and cell-phone service and repair
  • Electronic and office supplies
  • Hardware supplies
  • Pet and animal supplies

Remember to follow the public health guidance:

  • Staying informed and being prepared to follow public health advice
  • Practicing good hygiene (wash your hands, avoid touching your face, cough and sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue)
  • Maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 arm lengths
    • Use a non-medical or cloth mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces
  • Staying at home and away from others when you are sick, unless it is to get medical attention
  • Wearing a non-medical or cloth mask when going out to access health care services or visiting indoor public spaces
  • Working from home, where possible.
  • Continuing to shop online and using curbside pickup, where possible.
  • Limiting non-essential travel in and outside of the province.
  • Keeping a log of when you go out in public and your interactions with others.
Outside of Avalon – Alert Level 4 – February 26, 2021

Starting February 26, 2021, and continuing for 2 weeks, areas outside the Avalon region will be in Alert Level 4. This means Labrador-Grenfell Health Region, Central Health Region, Western Health Region and Zone 4 of the Eastern Health Region (Burin and Bonavista peninsulas and the Clarenville area, including the isthmus).

  • Private health care clinics can reopen in accordance with guidelines
  • Gym and fitness facilities, yoga studios, tennis and squash facilities, arenas, dance studios and performance spaces remain closed.
  • Childcare services can expand to full capacity
  • Retail stores, including those in shopping malls, can open at 50 per cent capacity, provided physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Personal service establishments, including spas, esthetic services, hair salons, body piercing, tattooing and tanning salons, can open in accordance with guidelines.
  • Restaurants remain closed for in-person dining.
  • Bars, lounges, bingo halls and cinemas remain closed.

Remember to follow the public health guidance:

  • Staying informed and being prepared to follow public health advice
  • Practicing good hygiene (wash your hands, avoid touching your face, cough and sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue)
  • Maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 arm lengths
    • Use a non-medical or cloth mask when physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • Frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces
  • Staying at home and away from others when you are sick, unless it is to get medical attention
  • Wearing a non-medical or cloth mask when going out to access health care services or visiting indoor public spaces.
  • Working from home, where possible.
  • Continuing to shop online and using curbside pickup, where possible.
  • Limiting non-essential travel in and outside of the province.
  • Keeping a log of when you go out in public and your interactions with others.
Mandatory Mask Regulations

As of August 24, 2020, non-medical masks are mandatory in most public indoor spaces.

What are the places where masks will be mandatory?

  • public transit (buses, taxis, car services, public areas of ferries, etc.);
  • a retail business;
  • a service company;
  • a professional’s private office, where physical distancing cannot be maintained or physical barriers are not in place;
  • common areas of an office building (e.g. lobby, elevators, reception areas, conference rooms, washrooms, breakrooms);
  • common areas of apartment buildings/condominiums (e.g lobby, elevators, hallways)
  • a place where municipal or government services are offered;
  • a personal care business (e.g., hair salons, tattoo shops, tanning salons) (see exemptions for treatments);
  • an animal daycare or grooming business;
  • a shopping mall or community market;
  • a place of worship;
  • a funeral home;
  • a theatre or performing arts venue;
  • a cinema;
  • an indoor entertainment business (see exemptions for physical activity);
  • a rental room, community centre, or other venue used to host distanced gatherings;
  • a sports-related clubhouse;
  • a community museum or historic site;
  • a bingo hall;
  • a fitness centre, dance studio or yoga studio (see exemptions for physical activity);
  • an arena (see exemptions for physical activity below);
  • a place where sports or recreational activities are practiced (see exemptions for physical activity);
  • a restaurant or lounge;
  • a common area, including an elevator, of a tourist accommodation establishment (e.g. hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, rental cabins or cottages); and
  • a post-secondary educational institution (including colleges, universities and trades schools).

For more information on wearing masks and permitted exemptions, please see the government COVID website. 

Employee Management

I need to lay off an employee – how do I do that?

Whenever the employer or employee initiates an interruption of employment, even temporarily, notice must be provided. The amount of notice required is determined by the employee’s length of service.

Note: Although the Labour Standards Act allows for notice to be waived due to “climatic or economic conditions that are beyond the foreseeable control of the employer and that necessitate declaration of redundancy;”, Labour Standards indicated that COVID-19 could not necessarily be deemed unforeseeable, and therefore an employer who wished to terminate or lay-off employees should seek legal advice as to whether notice is necessary.

The Labour Standards Act does allow for a temporary lay-off of not more than 13 weeks in a 20-week period. If the lay-off exceeds the temporary lay-off period, employment is considered to have been terminated at the beginning of the temporary lay-off period.

What is the Communicable Disease Emergency Leave?

The communicable disease emergency leave entitles an employee to a leave of absence without pay due to the following reasons related to a designated communicable disease – COVID-19 falls into this category:

  • the employee is under individual medical investigation, supervision or treatment;
  • the employee is acting in accordance with an order under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act;
  • the employee is 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 related to a designated communicable disease issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health or the Government;
  • the employee is under a direction given by his or her employer in response to a concern of the employer that the employee may expose other individuals in the workplace to a designated communicable disease;
  • the employee is providing care or support to a qualifying individual for a reason related to a designated communicable disease that concerns that individual including a school or child care service closure; and
  • the employee is directly affected by travel restrictions related to a designated communicable disease and, under the circumstances cannot reasonably be expected to travel back to the province.

An employer cannot terminate an employee for taking this leave. The employee has a right to return to the same job after the leave, or to a job that has the same terms and conditions with regards to hours, pay, seniority, etc.

What are my employees’ health and safety rights?

Under Occupational Health and Safety legislation, employers must take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers. An employee has the right to provide feedback to their employer, the right to know hazards they may be exposed to, and the right to refuse working in an unsafe environment.

The provincial government has created guidelines to assist as you reopen your business, but every workplace is different and you should assess your business operations to address potential risks. Preventive measures can include installing physical distancing signage; adding plexiglass to create a barrier between customer and employee; and having a supply of hand sanitizer, paper towel and soap on site.

As well as measures to protect against COVID-19, you must also comply with other current OH&S rules and regulations, such as having a workplace violence policy, a harassment prevention plan, a health and safety policy/program, and ensuring employees are trained in health and safety awareness.

My employee is refusing to work due to COVID-19 concerns. What should I do?

Employees have the right to refuse to work in what they consider an unsafe environment. If this happens, talk to the employee about their concerns, remind them of the preventive measures that have been put in place and the safety products available to them, and ask the employee what would make them feel safer. Including employees in these decisions lets them know that their voices are heard and that their safety really is a priority.

Determine if there is any way that your business can accommodate the employee’s situation; it is the responsibility of the business to consider accommodations to the point of undue hardship, for example:

  • Providing more PPE
  • Allowing an employee to work from home
  • Allowing an employee to use the Communicable Disease Emergency Leave

If an employee feels that the matter has not been resolved satisfactorily, they have the right to report their concerns to the Occupational Health and Safety Division. Please contact us if you find yourself in this situation.

Can I force my employees to get vaccinated?

It may be possible to put a vaccination policy in place, or to make being vaccinated a condition of employment; however, it is important that accommodations are made for employees who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. It is worth noting that terminating an employee for not getting the vaccine could lead to a claim of constructive dismissal.

Before implementing a mandatory vaccination policy, consider the following:

  • Does the workplace serve a vulnerable population?
  • What is the nature and duration of the employee’s contact with that population?
  • Assess risk for different positions – you may want to avoid an all-employee blanket policy.

Ensure the policy is clear and employees understand consequences for non-compliance.

It is strongly recommended you consult with legal counsel to evaluate the risk of a mandatory vaccination policy in your workplace.

What do I do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, Public Health will conduct contact tracing and provide guidance on how the business should proceed.

Depending on the level of exposure risk, Public Health may:

  • recommend the business close for deep cleaning and sanitisation
  • require close contacts to self-isolate and arrange testing
  • request visitor sign-in sheets to aid contact tracing

Note that the Personal Health Information Act will prevent Public Health from releasing the patient’s name to the employer.

Can I force an employee to get tested for COVID-19?

As an employer, you have a duty to provide a safe workplace. You also have a duty to avoid discrimination and to respect the privacy of your employees.

Public Health requires all workplaces to have a Workplace Illness Policy which should include the following COVID-19 related clauses:

  • Sick employees must stay home or be sent home from work;
  • For employees housed in workplace accommodations (i.e., work camps), sick employees must be confined to their rooms until cleared for re-entry into the workforce;
  • Sick employees must use the self-assessment tool for COVID-19 and follow the subsequent directions; and,
  • When employees go home sick, their work areas must be cleaned and disinfected.

Ensure your employees are aware of the policy, and that not following it is a disciplinary offence.

Mental health

With Canada firmly in the grip of COVID-19, it is anything but business as usual. Many businesses are closing their doors and laying off staff, others have employees refusing to come to work. We are all stressed and everyone is worried about their health and financial well-being. Amidst this turbulence, you as a business leader are scrambling to keep your business afloat while leading your staff through these uncertain times.

Here are links to resources you can access if you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Newfoundland and Labrador

Mental health and addictions

  • Provincial Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-737-4668 or (709) 737-4668
  • Mental Health and Addictions Systems Navigator: 1-877-999-7589 or (709) 752-3916
  • CHANNAL Peer Support Warm Line: 1-855-753-2560 or (709) 753-2560

Federal

Financial Relief & Government support

Workers’ Compensation Support

The interest-free payment plan, for employers with existing payment plans, was extended to March 31, 2021.

Trainers and training providers have new guidelines from WorkplaceNL for in-class instruction for certification safety training during COVID-19.

WorkplaceNL is offering reduced services at this time but is prepared to help with any questions business owners may have.

Employers can revise their payroll estimates at any time by e-mailing the revised estimate to [email protected], or by accessing connect.

For more detailed information, please visit the Newfoundland and Labrador COVID-19 information page on the WorkplaceNL website.

Webinar Information:

WorkplaceNL offers regular webinars on a variety of occupational health and safety topics. All webinars run from 10am to 11.30am (unless otherwise indicated on the registration page).

March 11 - Working Safely with Solvents

March 17 - Serious Injury Awareness

March 18 - Slips, Trips and Falls: What Went Wrong?

March 24 - Managing MSI Risk: Building Caretakers and Cleaners

March 24 - Workplace Violence and Harassment Legislation Overview (Pre-recorded)

March 30 - CTR and Employers: How to Claim your Network and Manage Employee Training

March 31 - Traffic Control Certification Training Standard

Support for liquor licensees

On May 1, 2020, the provincial government and Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation announced initiatives to support liquor licensees during the pandemic. Specific supports include:

  • Temporary direct sale of alcohol with takeout/curbside pick-up and delivery orders
  • Brewers, wineries and distilleries can offer home delivery
  • Liquor licence fees are waived for the 2020-21 fiscal year (a refund will be provided for those fees already paid)
  • A 5 per cent wholesale pricing discount for licensees on wine, spirits and ready to drink beverages
  • An increase in product commission discounts for non-NLC distributed products to 55 per cent for those producing 1000 HL or less
  • Ferment-on premises operations can temporarily bottle customers' beverages

For further information, please refer to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador press release.

Other supports for business

Electricity

The government is providing $2.5million to waive interest on overdue accounts for residential and general service (commercial) customers in the province. It will be for a period of 15 months beginning on June 1, 2020.

Business customers should call Newfoundland Power at 1-800-663-2802 to apply for the Customer Interest Assistance Program.

Red Tape Reduction

The government has launched a red tape reduction portal for businesses to suggest opportunities to ease regulatory pressures. The questionnaire will be open until March 31, 2021.

Supports for Aboriginal Businesses

The Ulnooweg Development Group has been providing loans and business support to Aboriginal businesses in Atlantic Canada since 1986. The group has announced an emergency loan program to help support Aboriginal businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Loans up to $60,000 with up to $20,000 non-repayable are available to help meet immediate operating cash flow needs.

Information on the support is available on the Ulnooweg site.

What CFIB is doing in Newfoundland and Labrador

What we’ve achieved
  • Creation of a web portal for red tape reduction ideas
  • Allowing alcohol to be sold with restaurant take-out and delivery orders, and craft breweries to deliver
What we’re asking for
As we regularly communicate with the Newfoundland and Labrador government to get answers to your questions, we are actively lobbying them to:
  • Ensure shutdowns are consistent and targeted to the sectors of greatest concern, as backed by transparent healthcare policy evidence;
  • Impose lockdowns fairly to ensure an uneven playing field is not created between large and small businesses. As an example, if retailers are required to close, ensure that big box retailers that sell groceries are limited to providing essential services only and not permitted to sell non-essential goods in-store during the lockdown period;
  • Review and update lockdown measures regularly to avoid any business being closed longer than necessary;
  • Ensure provincial small business support programs are available to all sectors, when their operations are affected by increased public health restrictions;
  • Ensure provincial small business support programs are available to businesses of all sizes;
  • Extend availability of provincial small business support programs for as long as public health measures restrict the ability of businesses to operate;
  • Extend current and future provincial small business support programs to businesses that began operating during the pandemic;
  • Ensure the application process for provincial small business support programs are simple;
  • Convert provincial small businesses support programs introduced during the pandemic from “deferrals/loans” to “holidays/grants”;
  • Actively promote consumer confidence, and spending within small businesses.

Learn more on how CFIB is fighting for better relief at the federal level.

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