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Your business and COVID-19 in Quebec

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  • Your business and COVID 19 in Quebec

We’re here to help

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

Update:
On April 9, 2021, the Quebec government announced new support measures – see “Government support” below for more. Also, as of April 8, medical masks are mandatory in all workplaces.

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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.

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Public health measures & restrictions

Mandatory business closures & curfew

Here are the rules and restrictions in place as of May 3, according to the provincial alert levels:

“Special emergency measures”:

Given the recent change in the pandemic, special emergency measures apply until May 9 in the Communauté métropolitaine de Québec, the city of Gatineau, the MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais, the MRC Beauce-Sartigan, the MRC de Bellechasse, the MRC Les Etchemins, the MRC La Nouvelle-Beauce and the MRC Robert-Cliche. In these areas:

  • The curfew is in effect between 8:00PM and 5:00AM.
  • Private gatherings – indoor and outdoor – are prohibited, with few exceptions.
  • Teleworking is mandatory for all office workers, unless their physical presence is vital to their job.
  • Only essential commercial enterprises are open. Consult the list of essential commercial enterprises. Curbside delivery and pickup are available for non-essential businesses.
  • Dining rooms are closed. Delivery, takeout, and drive-through orders only. Only delivery is allowed during the curfew.
  • Indoor sporting, cultural and recreational activities are prohibited.

In red zones:

  • Curfew is in place from 9:30 PM to 5 AM; all businesses must close no later than 9:00 PM.
    • As of April 11, the curfew is in effect from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM in Montreal and Laval.
  • Teleworking (working from home) is mandatory for office workers
  • Outdoor activities (with a maximum of 4 people) can take place
  • Gatherings in places of worship are capped at 25 people.
  • Dining rooms are closed, but takeout, drive-through and delivery are still allowed. Only delivery during the curfew.
  • Bar activities are suspended. Microbreweries and distilleries are closed for on-site eating or drinking.
  • Cinemas and live performance venues can re-open as of March 26
  • Only people living at the same address can stay at a tourist establishment.
  • Manufacturers and construction companies must reduce operations to the minimum required to meet commitments.
  • Spas and personal / esthetic care businesses are open.

In orange zones:

  • Curfew is in place from 9:30 PM to 5 AM
  • Restaurants can open for indoor dining, with a maximum of two adults (and their children, if applicable) per table
    • Restaurants must maintain a list of clients. Only diners who live in the same alert zone can eat indoors.
    • During the curfew, only delivery is allowed.
  • Sport facilities can reopen
  • Maximum of 8 people for outdoor activities
  • Maximum of 1-2 people, or a family, for indoor activities 
  • Gyms can open, with limited capacity (see “Restriction on number of customers in stores” below)
  • Cinemas and live performance venues can re-open since February 26, with mandatory mask-wearing.

In yellow zones (starting March 26):

  • There is no curfew
  • Teleworking is not mandatory, but encouraged
  • Restaurants can have up to 2 families per table
  • Some entertainment sites like arcades, theme parks (indoor activities) and youth hostels can re-open (under strict conditions the government will announce later)
  • Bars and microbreweries can re-open (under certain conditions)
  • More easing of restrictions will be announced for recreation and sports
     

To find out what colour zone you are in, and the relevant restrictions, see the government’s alert levels map

If your employees need to work or travel during curfew, you can use the employer attestation template from the government. The template will download as a Word document when you click the link.

Restriction on number of customers in stores

As of December 4, retail stores, food establishments and drugstores must reduce the number of customers allowed on their premises. They also must display the capacity of their business and take steps that help people to comply with social distancing and face covering requirements, including while lining up.

As of March 31, 2021, only essential businesses may open in areas under special emergency measures. (If you’re unsure, check the list of essential businesses.) Delivery and curbside pickup are still available for non-essential businesses.

If you fail to comply with the new requirements you could be subject to fines up to several thousand dollars.

For more information, check out the government's page about the restriction.

Rules for restaurants

In red zone, you must close your restaurant, but can offer delivery, drive-through and take-out.
In orange zone, you can open your restaurant, with maximum 2 adults per table. These adults can accompany their minor children. You must also keep an attendance register and can only admit customers with proof of residence in the same region as your establishment. Reservations are mandatory, with the exception of fast-food services.
 

Personal protective equipment

Frequently asked questions

Definitions

What is a medical mask?

A medical mask, also called a surgical or procedure mask, is the type of masks commonly used in health settings. They are designed with several layers of material to protect staff from exposure to blood, body fluids, etc. Consequently, they are more effective than fabric masks (or handmade masks). Medical masks are usually flat, pre-molded or with folds, and attach behind the ears by means of elastic bands. Masks of this type come in a wide variety. Currently, there are no standards for monitoring their quality.

What is a physical barrier?

Physical barriers are usually made of a rigid, transparent material that is installed between customers (e.g., a plexiglass barrier mounted on a checkout counter). Barriers can also be made of a flexible, transparent material or of any other material, transparent or not.

What is eye protection?

Protective eye equipment must form a barrier against side splashes and direct sprays. It needs to be adjusted around the face, covering it from the eyebrows to the cheeks and from the nose to the side of the face. Safety glasses or visors are normally used to provide eye protection.

Selecting equipment

What PPE is required for workers?

The CNESST requires that medical masks be worn at all times in workplaces. Such masks are also required for outdoor work, if employees can’t avoid staying 2m apart.

Medical masks AND protective eyewear are required if employees will be within 2m of customers, without any physical barriers (e.g. plexiglass).

These requirements do not change public health rules surrounding mask-wearing in public.

Can wearing eyeglasses, with or without side shields, be considered eye protection?

Eyeglasses are not acceptable as PPE.

As for side shields, the CNESST says they can be worn with prescription glasses as long as there is no direct trajectory for projections (droplets) to hit the eyes and the glasses are big enough to cover the eyes. If that is the case, prescription glasses with side shields are acceptable.

The CNESST adds that employers must analyze the risks relating to the tasks that workers concerned have to perform. For example, a person in a lying position could receive a direct projection to the eyes. The analysis must be done on a case-by-case basis.

Can a fabric mask be substituted for a medical mask?

No. Fabric masks cannot be substituted for medical masks in the workplace. Their effectiveness has been shown to vary enormously, and they are not sufficient for protecting workers. However, if the two-metre physical distancing rule is observed and there is a physical barrier, the CNESST does not prevent wearing fabric masks in the workplace.

Is it acceptable to wear just a visor?

The Institut national de la santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) has shown that wearing only a visor does not provide adequate protection against exposure to or transmission of the virus. The CNESST might authorize wearing a visor alone but only as a last resort. An example would be when a mask causes the eye protection equipment to fog up and this problem cannot be remedied. As mentioned above, if the two-metre physical distancing rule is observed or if there is a physical barrier, it is acceptable to wear just a visor.

Managing employees

Do my employees really have to wear N-95 masks on my business premises?

No. A procedure mask and eye protection are usually enough. Only certain workers such as those in the health field are required to wear N-95 masks.

Some media reported that the CNESST had mandated that all store employees wear N-95 masks. CNESST quickly corrected this misstatement in a press release.

Who must provide employees with personal protection equipment?

It is your, the employer’s, responsibility to provide PPE.

How many masks should I provide to my employees? How often should a mask be changed?

The CNESST recommends changing a procedure mask as soon as it is wet, visibly soiled, damaged or when breathing is difficult. It also recommends wearing a procedure mask for no more than four hours.

It is strongly recommended that you provide each employee with a mask for each consecutive four-hour work period. For example, employers will need to supply each employee with two masks for an eight-hour shift.

If I have installed a plexiglass-type barrier between my clients and my employees, do my employees still have to wear procedure masks and visors?

When physical distancing is observed or there is a physical barrier, the CNESST does not require the wearing of a mask and visor. However, if employees behind the barrier cannot observe physical distancing at all times, they will be required to wear procedure masks and eye protection.

Your managerial rights also allow you to require the wearing of masks even when it is not necessary. Such rights involve your own internal rules that your employees need to follow, unless they are prevented from doing so by a medical condition.

One of my employees claims to have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Do I have the right to demand a medical certificate?

Yes, but it is not recommended to go to hospitals or medical clinics right now, especially if someone is not sick. If you require a medical certificate from a salaried employee, know that the related costs can represent fees to your business operations and payroll.

Some of my employees object to wearing masks and don’t want to comply with the health guidelines issued by the CNESST. What am I supposed to do?

As an employer, you are obligated to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for your employees. Your employees also have an obligation to ensure their health and safety as well as that of their colleagues. If they refuse to comply with the rules prescribed by the CNESST, you will have to discipline them. Depending on the situation, it may also be possible to bar them from entering the workplace.

Do delivery people also have to wear personal protective equipment when they deliver goods to my company?

Although they are not your employees, delivery people are still workers and are subject to the CNESST health guidelines. This means that if the two-metre distance cannot be observed and there is no physical barrier, they will absolutely have to wear surgical masks and eye protection.

Managing the public and my business

If physical distancing is observed or a physical barrier separates my employees from the customers, do customers still have to wear masks?

Yes. Members of the public are required to wear masks or face coverings at all times in closed or partially enclosed public places. However, customers are not subject to any restrictions as to the type of mask and are free to wear either a fabric or procedure mask.

How can I validate which people are not required to wear a mask (i.e. those exempted by Santé publique)?

You can ask the person whether they are not wearing a mask because of a medical condition. However, you do not have to ask about the nature of any such condition or request a medical certificate. This is not your responsibility.

 

To find best practices for protecting customers in your food establishment, you can read this advisory from the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ).

Webinar

To help you get the facts right on mandatory mask wearing in Quebec, you can watch our webinar featuring CNESST and Public Health (French).

Government support

Loan or loan guarantee

To help businesses whose cash flow is affected by the impact of COVID-19, the government has implemented the Emergency Assistance for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (COVID-19) and the Concerted Temporary Action Program for Businesses

The first program provides a maximum of $50,000 in emergency financing and the second offers a minimum of $50,000.

In both cases, the financing is in the form of a loan or a loan guarantee.

*UPDATE* You now have until September 1, 2021, to start making capital and interest payments on your PAUPME or PACTE loan.

Who is eligible?

Businesses and collective promoters, including:

  • Businesses of all sectors
  • Cooperatives
  • Non-profits

Eligible companies must:

  • Have been in operation in Québec for at least 6 months
  • Be temporarily closed, likely to close or showing signs of closure
  • Be at a stage of maintaining, consolidating or relaunching their operations
  • Demonstrate a causal link between their financial or operational hardship and the COVID-19 pandemic

How do I apply for the Emergency Assistance for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses?

Contact your regional county municipality (RCM), your municipal office or the authority that manages the Local Investment Fund in your RCM. A contact list is available on the program’s webpage.

How do I apply for the Concerted temporary action program for businesses?

Contact your account or project manager directly if you are a client of Investissement Québec. If you are not already a client, get in touch with your financial institution, which will then contact Investissement Québec.

To reach an account or project manager, please check the online directory. For more information, see the funding details.

Help for businesses forced to close under decree

The Assistance for Businesses in Regions Under Maximum Alert (AERAM) allows eligible businesses to apply for loan forgiveness to cover their core operating costs. The loan forgiveness can reach up to 80% of the loan, or $15,000.

AERAM is a component of the Emergency Assistance for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses program (PAUPME) and the Concerted Temporary Action Program for Businesses (PACTE). So to take advantage of AERAM, you must first apply for and obtain a loan under the PAUPME or PACTE programs. You can learn more about these programs in the “Loan or loan guarantee” section of this page.

Note: Starting February 10, 2021, you can only apply for AERAM to cover costs paid from January 2021 onwards. Also, starting on May 15, 2021, you can only apply to cover costs paid from February 15 onwards. Your application will have to show your business’s working capital needs for the period from January 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021. CFIB is pushing for you to be able to apply retroactively and for a simpler application process.

*UPDATE* – If your restaurant or gym had reopened but then had to close again shortly after because or a closure order, you could be eligible for additional loan forgiveness of up to $10,000 to offset your establishment’s closure fees.

If your business has closed for more than 180 days, you could benefit from additional loan forgiveness of up to $15,000 per month for three months. This amount would go to cover fixed costs paid during the three months following your last month of AERAM eligibility. It comes on top of loan forgiveness of the previous months, for a total of 100% of the loan forgiveness if you have demonstrated a need for cashflow.

Businesses that offer catering services are now part of the restaurant category. If you own one, you could apply for AERAM to cover your fixed costs paid from January 1, 2021, onwards.

Eligible fees

Once your loan application has been accepted, you can apply for loan forgiveness to cover the following core operating costs if they were paid during the targeted closure period

  • Municipal and school taxes
  • Rent (the part not covered by another government program)
  • Interest on a mortgage
  • Utility costs (e.g., electricity, gas)
  • Insurance
  • Telecommunication costs
  • Association fees and licenses

To be eligible to the loan forgiveness, your business must:

  • Be covered by a public health closure order related to COVID-19 
  • Have partially or completely closed, in compliance with an order-in-Council or a ministerial order, for at least:
    • 10 days in each month in October, November and December 2020, and January 2021
    • 7 days in each month in February and March 2021.
       

To apply under the Emergency Assistance for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses program, you need to contact your RCM.

For applications made through the Concerted Temporary Action Program for Businesses, you must contact your Investissement Québec account manager or your financial institution.

Tip: Budget the fixed costs of your business every month to make sure you apply for the appropriate loan amount.

Financière agricole du Québec
  • Emergency On-Farm Support Fund
    • Financial support to help farm business take measures to safeguard their employees from COVID-19.
    • It reimburses a portion of eligible expenses incurred between March 15, 2020, and March 13, 2021.
    • Your application must be submitted no later than February 26, 2021.
  • You can receive an interim payment of 75% of the Agristability Program benefits.
  • You might be eligible to receive a six-month moratorium on loan repayments.
  • You can request interim AgriStability payments to receive this support quickly.
CNESST

To help businesses re-open or stay open, the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST) has prepared a toolkit for employers and workers.

It also announced various relief measures for workers. These measures, which came into effect on March 20, 2020, and will continue until further notice, include:

  • If you receive the federal wage subsidy, you are not required to pay insurance premiums to the CNESST for the weeks when your employees do not work. If you have paid the premium on wages that are now exempt, an adjustment will be made when you submit your 2020 Statement of Wages.
  • The CNESST will tolerate longer delays for filing complaints-related documents.
  • It will only deliver statements of offence for serious incidents, like a serious accident or a death.
  • Judgments will only be enforced in case of “force majeure.”
  • Formal notices will also be sent in case of “force majeure”
     
Caisse de dépôt

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) announced that it is making approximately $4 billion available to support Quebec businesses whose operations are temporarily disrupted by COVID-19.

These funds are intended to meet the cash needs of companies that fulfil specific criteria. Under these criteria, a company must:

  • Seek financing of over $5 million.
  • Have been profitable before the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Have a promising growth outlook in its industry sector.

To apply for funding, you will need to complete the required form.

Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux
  • Any expiring permit, license or authorization will be renewed automatically or will remain in effect. 
  • The normal deadlines have been suspended for:
    • Applying for or renewing a permit or license
    • Applying for the renewal of an authorization
    • Paying expenses or fees
    • Making representations
  • When the situation returns to normal, the Régie will inform the affected licensees of the procedure they will need to follow with respect to paying or renewing their fees.

Other measures are in place for meeting permits, liquor licences, bingo, draws, publicity contests, amusement machines, combat sports, horse racing and liquor manufacturer licenses. You can find full details on the Régie's website (French only).
 

Support for the tourism industry

To learn more about the different support measures for the tourism industry in Quebec, visit this page on the government’s website (French only).
 

What CFIB is doing in Quebec

What we’ve achieved
  • We worked with government to create the Temporary Aid for Workers Program (now closed).
  • Our advocacy work has led to many tax obligations being eased and/or deferred.
  • Many municipalities have implemented our recommendations, including tax holidays, penalty and fees holidays for unpaid bills, and fast payment of any amounts owed to businesses.
  • In its budget, the Quebec government promised that financial aid to SMEs would continue as long as the pandemic does.
  • Restaurants are now allowed to deliver alcohol.
  • The government has launched several ‘Buy Local’ campaigns.
  • When imposing lockdown, the government now plans for measures that avoid giving an unfair advantage to big box, like forbidding the sale of non-essential goods.
  • After constant pushing from us, the government has allowed curbside pickup.
  • The government announced that SMEs who were eligible for the small business deduction could continue to claim it, even if they did not meet the threshold of 5,500 hours worked because of COVID-19.
What we’re still pushing for
  • Provide SMEs with emergency grants of up to $5000 per month to help pay for rent.
  • Protect commercial tenants from eviction for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Implement financial assistance measures for self-employed workers and new businesses.
  • Implement direct financial assistance measures for SMEs.
  • Temporarily halt QST remittances.
  • Provide wage subsidies to businesses to help them retain their employees.
  • Allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages.
  • Give businesses more time to repay government emergency loans.
  • Raise the loan/subsidy ratio in government relief programs.
  • Extend relief programs’ eligibility criteria to all business impacted by pandemic-related restrictions.
  • Simplify the rules and ease the regulatory burden for businesses that apply for government support.
  • Freeze property taxes.

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

 

Additional resources

Don’t see the information you need? Talk to an expert – it's FREE

CFIB members get one-on-one advice from our business counsellors, exclusive access to helpful webinars, weekly email updates, and a voice in the support measures we push for from the government.

CFIB members: Get in touch today.

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Visit our COVID-19 Help Centre

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