COVID-19

Alberta Introduces Bill 24 to Respond to COVID-19 as State of Emergency is Lifted

On June 15, 2020, Alberta’s state of public health emergency due to the COVID‑19 pandemic ended, as Alberta continues to reopen businesses and services in the second stage of its Relaunch Strategy.  In order to be able to continue to effectively respond to the ongoing pandemic, however, the Government of Alberta introduced Bill 24, the COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 (“Bill 24”), on June 18, 2020. Bill 24 seeks to amend 15 different pieces of provincial legislation, including employment and labour legislation in Alberta.

Specifically, Bill 24 seeks to implement the following changes relevant to employers:

  • An extension of Ministerial Order No. 26/2020 until 18 months after the ministerial order was set to lapse or otherwise end, which is anticipated to be February 14, 2022. This change applies with respect to the employers of certain health care and continuing care facilities, and limits work for more than one employer, or at more than one worksite;
  • An increase in the maximum period for a temporary layoff to 180 consecutive days (previously, the maximum was 60 days within a 120-day period, which was then extended by Ministerial Order No. 18/2020 to 120 consecutive days). This change will apply to any temporary layoff related to COVID-19 that is ongoing as of June 18, 2020, or occurs on or after June 18, 2020. In effect, employees will not be deemed to have had their employment terminated until day 181 of the layoff period (or on a later date if the layoff period is extended in accordance with the Employment Standards Code, such as in cases where it is agreed that the employer makes benefits contributions on the employees’ behalf);
  • The continuation of unpaid job-protected leave under the Employment Standards (COVID-19 Leave) Regulation for 14 consecutive days, if an employee is self-isolating or under self‑quarantine as a result of COVID-19. This is particularly relevant as the Chief Medical Officer of Health Order setting out Alberta’s mandatory isolation requirements continue to remain in effect, notwithstanding that the state of public health emergency has ended; and
  • A broadening of the powers of the Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Officer of Health, for the purpose of protecting the public health, irrespective of whether a state of public health emergency has been declared in Alberta.

We anticipate that Bill 24 will pass final reading this week or soon thereafter.

In addition, on June 17, 2020, the Employment Standards (COVID-19 Leave) Regulation was amended, pursuant to Order in Council No. 181/2020, to continue to allow unpaid job‑protected family leave to employees for as long as is necessary to care for a family member that is self‑isolating or under quarantine, or care for a child who is unable to attend school or child care services, as a result of COVID-19. This job-protected family leave will remain in place until August 14, 2021.

We note that all other temporary changes to the employment standards rules that were implemented by the Government of Alberta in response to the pandemic (previously reported here) will come to an end on August 14, 2020, 60 days after the state of emergency was lifted.

We will continue to update our clients with information as it becomes available. If you have any questions about this topic, other COVID-19 related questions, or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer, or refer to the Firm’s COVID-19 website resources.

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