Alberta’s Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) has been taken to the ‘train station’ and thrown over the cliff in Yellowstone speak. The REP COVID-19 vaccine passport program officially ended at 11:59 p.m. February 8, 2022 and Alberta is officially in “Step 1” of a three-phased “Return to Normal” approach.
The Phased Approach
During Step 1:
- Venues are no longer required to verify patrons’ QR codes or see proof of a negative test.
- Masks are still mandatory in all indoor public spaces, workplaces, and places of worship.
- Isolation requirements also remain in effect.
- Mandatory work-from-home order remains in effect, unless the employer has determined the employee’s physical presence is required for operational effectiveness.
- Entertainment venues will continue restrictions on seating, closing times, and table capacity. Also, capacity limits are removed except for facilities of 500+.
Effective February 14, 2022, masks are no longer required for children 12 and under and/or for children of any age in schools.
If hospitalization rates continue to trend down, Alberta will move to “Step 2” on March 1, 2022. Employers should prepare for all masking, distancing, and work-from-home requirements to be lifted.
Impact on Employers
Despite these changes, employers obligations surrounding protection from COVID-19 will continue. Employers need to ensure they are meeting their positive obligation to protect the health and safety of their employees. Especially as municipal by-laws in Alberta’s largest cities are still in effect regarding face coverings (and other COVID-19 related matters).
Employers are recommended to conduct updated hazard assessments to determine the relative risks and necessary controls to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. Proactive steps could include:
- Assessing the timing, and any site specific location considerations, for employees returning to the workplace. There may be value in a phased approach, especially given psychological considerations.
- Determining if other PPE measures are still needed to ensure not only physical, but also psychological safety of employees.
- Communicating regularly with employees about the phased approach and encouraging employees who may feel unsafe or concerned to speak directly with their managers or supervisors.
Planning for a fulsome return-to-worksite(s) should begin now, whether that is on a full-time basis or as a part of hybrid approach. Some employees may consider this a change in their employment and we recommend consulting with legal counsel to discuss the risks associated with recalling employees back to the workplace.
If you have any questions regarding the above, 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 other COVID-19 resources.