Below are frequently asked questions. Do you have a question that you would like to submit? Please send your questions to email@example.com
Government of Canada: FAQ – 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers
The Hotel Association of Canada: FAQ - Taking Care of Employees and Guests
Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB): FAQ - COVID-19 Small Business Help Centre
Face Masks in the Workplace
Q1. ARE WE LEGALLY REQUIRED TO MAKE WORKERS USE FACE MASKS?
A: Yes. The source of that duty is the Occupational health and safety (OH&S) legislation in Canada requirement that employers ensure that workers use appropriate PPE, including respiratory equipment to protect them against the hazards to which they’re exposed. To apply these principles to COVID-19, you need to understand how the virus spreads.
Dynamic: Respiratory droplets from a person carrying the virus come into contact with another person, either as a result of direct physical contact or indirectly via droplets that land on surfaces that another person subsequently touches. Face masks keep this from happening.
Q2. WHO HAS TO WEAR FACE MASKS?
A: According to current Canadian Chief Medical Officer (CMO) guidance, all individuals should wear face masks where social distancing, i.e., 6 feet/2 meters of physical separation can’t be maintained. That includes not just workers but also all individuals at the facility, including contractors and subcontractors, customers, clients and other visitors. The only exception is for people who work remotely, alone, in isolation or in other settings and conditions where they have no close contact with others.
Q3. WHAT KIND OF FACE MASKS MUST WORKERS USE?
A: It depends on the jobs they perform:
“Very high” or “High” risk jobs, which include mostly healthcare workers, EMTs, ambulance personnel and medical support staff, must use N95 particulate filtering masks at a minimum and may need more extensive protection, e.g., self-contained breathing apparatus if they have an unusually high degree of frequent or close contact with patients who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. “Medium” and “low” risk jobs require only a nonmedical face mask. In fact, the CMO doesn’t want these workers or the general public to use N95s because they’re in short supply and need to be reserved for healthcare workers.
Q4. MUST EMPLOYERS PROVIDE THE REQUIRED FACE MASKS?
A: Yes. Under OHS laws, employers are responsible for paying for and furnishing the PPE workers need to do their jobs.
Q5. MUST EMPLOYERS PROVIDE FACE MASKS WORKERS NEED TO COMMUTE TO AND FROM WORK?
A: Technically, you’re required to provide workers PPE only when they’re present at the workplace. But keep in mind that OHS laws define “workplace” very broadly as including not just the employer’s facility but also any place where workers are routinely expected to perform their job, e.g., at customer sites, while travelling on business and, in some cases, even inside the worker’s home in telecommuting situations. However, commuting to and from work doesn’t count. As a practical matter, though, workers should be able to use the simple non-medical face masks you provide during the shift while returning home from work and travelling to the workplace for the next shift.
Q6. CAN N95 MASKS BE RE-USED?
A: Normally no, but given the current emergency and mask shortage, public health authorities have given the okay to extended or re-use of N95s if employers ensure that: Masks are properly sterilized and stored between uses; Users perform a successful seal check before each
use; Users are instructed to inspect their mask before each use and throw it out if the functional integrity of any of its parts is compromised, and the user follows safe procedures to prevent
contamination when putting on and taking off a reused mask.
Q7. CAN N95 MASKS BE USED AFTER THEY HAVE EXPIRED?
A: Normally, N95 mask NIOSH approval expires after 5 years and you’re not allowed to use it after that. But during the pandemic, it’s okay to use an N95 after its 5-year shelf life as long as employers ensure that: The straps are inspected to ensure they still work and effect a tight seal; The mask is visually inspected, especially the nose bridge and filter material which can degrade;
the mask is still capable of being fit-tested and the user carries out a successful fit-test and seal check before each use; and the masks were stored in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.
Q8. CAN YOU DISCIPLINE WORKERS FOR REFUSING TO WEAR A FACE MASK?
A: Yes. You not only can but must treat a worker’s violation of PPE, social distancing, hygiene and other COVID-19 rules and restrictions as a serious offence meriting discipline in accordance with your normal progressive discipline policies and procedures.
Q9. IS RELIGION A VALID EXCUSE NOT TO WEAR A FACE MASK?
No. The good news is that the non-medical masks that most workers will have to use don’t require a tight fit to be effective. So, workers won’t have to shave their beard to use them. But religious discrimination could become an issue in a healthcare setting where workers required to have beards for religious reasons are required to use tight-fitting masks. The first thing employers should do in this situation is to consider accommodations allowing the worker to do the job without wearing the mask, e.g., assigning him to a position not involving close contact with others. But the one compromise you may not make is allowing the worker to do a job requiring an N95 (or more extensive equipment) with a looser mask or no mask at all. Explanation: Human rights laws require employers to accommodate workers’ religious beliefs to the point of undue hardship. Court cases have made it clear that undue hardship includes accommodations that would put a worker or another person in direct danger. Bottom Line: The duty to prevent COVID-19 infection takes precedence over the worker’s religious rights.
Q10. DO WORKERS NEED ANY SPECIAL FACE MASK USE TRAINING?
A: Yes. You must ensure workers understand:
• How COVID-19 infections can occur;
• How the face mask protects them from infection;
• The mask’s limitations and capabilities; and
• How to correctly use the mask.
Workers required to use N95 or other tight-fitting respirators also need to be trained on how to perform the necessary inspections and seal checks. And if the mask or respiratory protection is to be re-used, they must also be trained in how to correctly store, clean and maintain the equipment.
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The above Q&A's were pulled from the OHS Insiders' document, The New Normal: Implementing a Mandatory Workplace Face Mask Policy
For any additional information, please visit: WorksafeNB
Q1: What are the recommendations for cleaning pools?
A: Make sure you use Health Canada approved disinfectant products. These have been shown to kill viruses. Use your normal cleaning protocol on high-touch surfaces and enhance the frequency of your cleaning and sanitizing routines. Download the checklist: Pool re-opening guidelines
Q2: A few accommodations have showers in their fitness facilities. Can we make them available for use?
A: This is about risk assessment; some requirements around opening these are ensuring you have protocols in place that manage their use. Manage the number of people using your fitness facilities, and frequency of cleaning them. Download fitness facilities re-opening guidelines
Q3: Cleaning guest rooms: Should we wait a specific amount of time before having guests in a room, before cleaning staff enter the room, and can staff enter rooms for those guests who stay more than one night?
A: There are no protocols on this. You might want to wait around 30 minutes after the guest leaves the room to clean, as this is life span the virus can live in the air. For cleaning linen, your employees should minimize their contact in the room to reduce risk.
Q4: Will washing pillow covers suffice for killing the virus? Should furniture (like sofas) be steamed regularly, and if so, how often? Does steam kill the virus? Are there specific guidelines for disinfecting hot tubs?
A: The virus would not soak into the pillow, so washing the pillowcase is sufficient. The virus tends to live longer on hard surfaces like metals and woods. Employees should focus more on cleaning common surfaces like countertops. (TIANB offers a new certification that will help your staff be fully knowledgable on cleaning.)
Q5: Bed and breakfast operations: What about shared washrooms and showers?
A: Think about what protocols you could put in place that controls the flow of people entering shared washroom and showers such as floor and wall signage. Increase the frequency of your cleaning protocols in between groups of people using the washroom.
Q6: Can playgrounds stay open?
A: Playgrounds can stay open. To ensure the safety of your guests, Please download the playground checklist.
Q7: How long should we wait between use times for life jackets and other safety equipment?
A: Before guests put on a floatation device (wet suit, a flotation device) they should wash their hands (before and after use). The virus is not likely to persist beyond a few hours within an outdoor setting and with water present.
Q8: Should we have guests sign a document to ensure they will follow protocols?
A: During registration, there should be a reminder that guests who do not feel well should not follow through on their reservation. This is a simple way to screen people to ensure those who are sick are staying away from others. Here a screening procedure you can use.
Also, accommodation operations should keep a registry or logbook of their guests. If there is a COVID-19 positive individual, the process for the Public Health Agency of Canada is to interview this person and ask where they were when they were infectious to others, who else they were in contact with, and then the Agency would contact those people. If a guest was sick who was at the specific accommodation, Public Health would want to know the meetings they attended, rooms they were at, the cleaning person within their room, for example.
Q9: If someone is staying at an accommodation during their 14-day quarantine, how does management control their access if the guest is breaking the isolation protocol?
A: There should be people on site that are managing this. If someone is breaking the public health act, then the local authorities should take over.
Q: When should barriers replace physical distancing?
A: If you can’t keep 6 ft apart, you create a barrier to prevent the spread of the virus. Barriers are most effective in those areas that have shorter-term interaction like cash registers.
Q: If I’m selling tickets for tours with specific time slots, would this be considered an event, and how does this affect gathering limits?
A: There is no limit on numbers as long as you’re maintaining social distancing. Consider where the groups would gather, such as line-ups to attend the event, and place signage accordingly.
Q: If everyone on a boat wears a mask, could a boat operate at full capacity?
A: Wearing a mask decreases risks, but this does not mean you can take on additional risk in other areas, such as increasing capacity or removing social distancing.
Q: Do barriers have to be approved for a boat?
A: Not from a public health perspective. From an Operational Health and Safety perspective, you would not need approval but should demonstrate appropriate barrier standards. Think about the purpose of the barrier and its use if your guests cannot maintain social distancing.
Q: What are the recommendations for cleaning and mask use on boats?
A wet mask will decrease its effectiveness, but it is still effective to some extent. It’s necessary to clean common surfaces between one group of passengers to the next. Cleaning/Sanitization agents recommended are those Health Canada certified cleaning products. (Learn about Clean It Right certification.)
Q: Would face shields be effective for rafting?
A: Think about what you are doing upfront to ensure those who are sick are not getting on the boat in the first place. So, if customers do not feel well, advise them to refrain from the activity. An online registration form could include questions about their current health. (Download the questions template.)
Q: Is contact tracing required for operators?
A: It is recommended to have a registry or logbook to record all those who were there (names, dates, contact information). This substantially speeds up the process of contacting others who may have come into contact with the infected person. (Download the tracking sign-in template.)
Q: What are the recommendations for uniforms or protective clothing such as full-fledge floater suits?
A: The virus is transmitted mostly by close contact (breathing, laughing, etc.) and does not live outdoors. In many situations, the water could wash the virus away. While there are no strict protocols on clothing, it is recommended that guests take part in handwashing before and after wearing protective clothing.
Q: Are we permitted to have our vessel washrooms open?
A: It is recommended that you do open your washroom facilities if trips last more than 30 minutes. It’s important to promote healthy hygiene by opening washrooms. With washrooms open, you will want to consider what you have in place that will facilitate hand washing, cleaning, alcohol-based wipes to wipe down the handles and other commonly used surfaces.
Q: Where physical distancing is not possible, is PPE enough?
A: PPE does not replace physical distancing but does reduce risk.
Group Gathering Requirements
Q: When will the group gathering capacity be increased?
A: There is no fixed date.
The Atlantic bubble will return on April 19, 2021 allowing residents of the Atlantic provinces to travel within the four provinces without the requirement to self-isolate, as announced last week by the Council of Atlantic Premiers.
The Atlantic province residents will be able to cross interprovincial borders into the other Atlantic provinces without the need to self-isolate provided they:
- have not travelled outside of the Atlantic provinces for any reason, including work or personal travel, in the past 14 days (New Brunswickers returning from work in another Canadian province or territory continue to not be required to self-isolate when they return to New Brunswick);
- have not been advised to self-isolate;
- are not awaiting results of a COVID-19 test;
- are not a child experiencing the symptom of purple markings on the fingers or toes;
- are not experiencing at least two of the following symptoms:
- fever above 38°C or signs of fever (such as chills);
- a new cough or worsening chronic cough;
- sore throat;
- runny nose;
- a new onset of fatigue;
- a new onset of muscle pain;
- diarrhea; and
- loss of sense of taste or loss of sense of smell.
Atlantic Canadians will be able to travel to and from New Brunswick without the requirement to self-isolate but will be asked to provide proof of their province of residence. Visitors from other Canadian provinces and territories must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival and may then travel within the Maritime provinces. All visitors must answer health screening questions from border officers before being admitted to New Brunswick. The questionnaire can be printed and the contact information completed in advance of travel.
How the TWS and the CEWS work together
Q: What is the Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers?
The 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers (TWS) was a 3-month measure that allows eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions they need to remit to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). This only applies to the federal, provincial, or territorial income tax portion of the remittance.
The subsidy is equal to 10% of the remuneration you pay from March 18 to June 19, 2020, up to $1,375 for each eligible employee. The maximum total is $25,000 for each eligible employer. For more information, refer to TWS.
Q. What is the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy?
The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) provides a subsidy of 75% of employee wages paid by an eligible employer, up to a maximum of $847 per week for each eligible employee. For more information, refer to CEWS.
Q. How does the TWS and the CEWS work together?
You may be eligible for both the 10% Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers (TWS) and the CEWS.
If you participate in the TWS, you must reduce your CEWS claim by all amounts you claim under the TWS for pay dates in a specific CEWS claim period.
If you are eligible for the TWS, but you only want to participate in the CEWS, you can make a special election for your TWS to be equal to 0% of the remuneration you pay.
For more information, please refer to this page.
Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19
Q: An employee has tested positive for COVID-19 – what does the employer do?
A: The employee should not be permitted to return to the workplace until they are free of the COVID-19 virus. The current advice from health authorities is that all employees who worked closely with the infected employee should also be removed from the workplace for at least 14 days to ensure the infection does not spread in the workplace. What constitutes “closely” will depend on the workplace, and the nature of interactions between employees. Employers should also take reasonable measures to protect the confidentiality, to the extent possible, to protect the identity of any employee who contracts COVID-19.
Business is Slow, Not Enough Work
Q: Business is slow, and I don't have enough work for my employees. What can I do?
Source: The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)
A: Unfortunately, this is likely to be the case for many businesses. The government has pledged $10 billion in a credit facility administered by the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. There are also steps you can take to determine your business’ future:
• Review your finances: Look at your revenue vs your expenses – are you able to meet your basic expenses? Speak to your accountant/bookkeeper about your options and whether it makes sense to stay open, pause your business, shut down until an opportunity in the market arises, or close your business.
• Make a Business Continuity Plan: Weathering the storm will be difficult, make sure you have a plan as to how to do it. Restarting a business that has been suspended will take thought and time to bring back to its former level. Are there other options for your business to stay open? Can you find new suppliers? Can you change your business model to continue to serve your clients (i.e. provide delivery of food instead of having sit-in customers)
• Speak to your commercial insurance provider: You may be entitled to business interruption insurance payments. Call your provider to double-check your entitlement.
• Communicate with your employees twice a week: Let employees know what safety measures/policies you are putting in place to keep them safe.
Post educational posters and share safety tips.
Ensure that there is a way for employees to notify you if they are sick whether that be through health and safety representative/committee or though their manager.
Talk to employees about their job security/health status/income options. Are they entitled to employment insurance?
Q: Can an employer temporarily lay off employees?
A: Yes, but there is a real risk that any unilateral lay off of employees may be treated as a termination of employment under employment standards legislation or the common law. There are also statutory exemptions in many jurisdictions for unforeseeable circumstances, which may include a pandemic or government-ordered closure of a business. A number of provincial governments are proposing amendments to statutory leave guarantees to address the impact of COVID-19.
A: Lay-off provisions are a common feature of collective agreements and the conditions of lay-off and/or recall for unionized employees will depend upon the language of the collective agreement.
A manager or other non-union employee generally may only be laid off temporarily if the employment contract provides for the possibility of temporary lay-off, if temporary layoffs are common in the industry, or if the employee agrees to the layoff. In most industries, temporary layoffs are uncommon and are not a feature of the employment contract. In those circumstances, a temporary layoff without the employee’s agreement may trigger a constructive dismissal. In the current environment, there may be an argument available for exceptions based upon circumstances that are unforeseeable and beyond the employer’s control. Employers are strongly advised to obtain legal advice before laying off non-union employees.
Read MacLean's Canada Layoff Tracker.
Forced Government Closure
Q: What happens to our employees if we are ordered to close our business by the government?
A: If the employer is ordered to close by health or other authorities, employers may be able lay off employees without liability under provincial employment standards legislation or the common law. Each case will be dependent on its own facts.
Layoffs & Benefit Plans
Q: If we layoff our employees, are they still covered under our benefit plans?
A: This will depend on the language of the benefit plan document. Employers must review their policies with their benefit plan provider and advice employees of any limitations or restrictions in coverage.
Closing For Safety
Q: Can an employer close its business for safety reasons due to the COVID-19 outbreak?
A: An employer must ensure a safe working environment. Depending on the situation, it may be necessary to close a business location for occupational health and safety reasons. An employer’s obligation for providing notice or pay in lieu of notice to employees in the event of a workplace closure will be governed by the specific facts of each case.
Compensation Requirements - Off Work With No Symptoms.
Q: If an employer keeps an employee without COVID-19 symptoms out of work, is there a requirement to compensate the employee?
A: This will depend on the circumstances, including if the employee has travelled, the nature of the specific workplace, alternatives available (i.e. working from home) and any potential contract or collective agreement requirements. While each situation will have to be assessed individually, there will be circumstances where holding an employee out of service, without pay, may be deemed reasonable. There is also the potential for reputational damage should it become publicized that employers are forcing employees to remain away from the workplace without pay. Employers may also wish to consider whether the absence of compensation will reduce the efficacy of preventative measures in the workplace. If they will not be compensated, employees may not self-assess as critically as required or may not report issues or concerns.
Compensation Requirements - Employee with COVID-19
Q What if an employee has COVID-19 and cannot work?
A: Where an employee contracts COVID-19 and is unable to work, an employer must grant any applicable legislative leave to the employee, in addition to meeting any sick leave obligations outlined in employment agreements or collective agreements.
If the employee contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, there may be additional reporting obligations under workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety legislation.
Fire Employee with COVID-19
Q: Can an employer fire an employee if they contract COVID-19?
A: No. Employers may not terminate an employee or otherwise discriminate against an employee due to physical disability (which includes certain illnesses) under human rights legislation.
Refusal to Work
Q: What if employees refuse to work because they are afraid of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace?
A: Employers have a positive obligation to take reasonable care in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of employees under occupational health and safety legislation. Where an employee has reason to believe that there is a dangerous condition in the workplace, or that their duties present a danger to their health and safety (which is not an inherent or normal condition of their work), the employee may be able to refuse to attend work or perform certain duties. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers can expect to see work refusals from employees based on:
- a confirmed or presumptive case of COVID-19 in the workplace;
- a confirmed case of COVID-19 in an employee’s immediate family or other close contact;
- the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 from contractors, customers or clients depending on the nature of the workplace or the people it serves;
- concerns from employees who are particularly vulnerable (over age 65, compromised immune system, underlying medical condition) not wishing to report to work; or
- employees with a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19 by travelling to or attending work.
Whether or not a wok refusal based on the above or other grounds is reasonable will depend on individual circumstances. In the event of a work refusal, the employer must respond in accordance with occupational health and safety legislation, which response will include an investigation into the concerns and, if appropriate, adopting measures to eliminate or reduce the workplace danger. This investigation will, in large part, be based upon the current scientific understanding of COVID-19 and the specific facts in the individual workplace. No reprisal for properly exercising a health and safety right may occur.
Employers should also understand that, where the regulator is required to resolve the work refusal, the way the regulator does so could be different than might ordinarily occur. The determination of the regulator might be made without meeting with the workplace parties in person or there may be other steps or measures implemented by the regulator, for the protection of its staff, that are unusual.
Discipline for Work Refusal
Q: Can employees be disciplined for a work refusal?
A: Provincial occupational health and safety legislation generally provides that employers cannot dismiss, discipline, or intimidate employees for properly exercising a health and safety right. An employer may be justified in imposing discipline if the work refusal has been exercised in bad faith. However, the ability to discipline will depend on the circumstances of the work refusal and the language in the applicable work refusal right. An employer considering discipline for a refusing worker should do so after consultation with counsel in all but the clearest of cases.
For more information on the right of refusal, visit WorkSafeNB
Q: Can employees refuse travel as part of their job duties?
A: That will depend on the nature of the employee, the specific job and the travel destination. For example, employees over the age of 65 may not wish to travel at all. If there is a legitimate work refusal for safety reasons, occupational health and safety legislation will govern the resolution of any work refusal.
Request to Work Remotely
Q: Can an employer require an employee to work remotely?
A: In the current climate, a request that employees work remotely will likely be seen as a reasonable measure to encourage social distancing, given the advice of federal and provincial government authorities.
Monitoring Work Remotely
Q: How do we monitor employees working remotely?
A: Employers should have a written policy that governs employees who are required to work remotely and addresses such things as working hours, productivity, remote meeting protocols, BYOD issues, etc.
Q: What if an employer needs to replace sick employees on a temporary basis to operate?
A: An employer can hire employees on a temporary basis. An employer may also ask healthy employees to work additional hours, provided the employer is complying with legislative provisions regarding overtime and excessive hours of work. Employers in unionized workplaces should be cognizant of the collective agreement and provincial labour laws applying to unionized workplaces. Employers should have already assessed how many employees they require to operate effectively and what will happen if a large number of employees are unable to attend work. If you have not done so already, do so now.
Buying Personal Protective Equipment
Q: Do employers have to buy personal protective equipment for employees?
A: Employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment relative to the expected duties of the employee and the risks in the workplace. If employees run the risk of becoming infected at work because of the work they perform, the employer must provide personal protective equipment.
The preventative measures being advised are hand, respiratory, and environmental hygiene and social distancing. These recommendations suggest that these measures are generally reasonable for most workplaces. However, if you have an employee who is vulnerable (over age 65, compromised immune system, or underlying medical condition) the obligations to this employee could be different. Precisely what steps may be reasonable to protect the vulnerable worker are likely to be determined on a case-by-case basis and involve advice from public health and/or medical officials. Employers may not know if a vulnerable employee is in the workplace. As part of workplace communications about COVID-19, employers should prompt workers with individual risk concerns to raise them with the employer.
Workers Compensation for Sick Employees
Q: If an employee contracts COVID-19 at work – are they covered by workers’ compensation?
A: Possibly, but the assessment of whether the employee is entitled to compensation would be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Workers compensation boards will have to assess whether COVID-19 is an occupational disease: e.g. it was caused by and arose out and in the course of employment.
Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits
A: Will EI offer sickness benefits to Canadians?
Q: Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Canadians quarantined can apply for EI sickness benefits. Presently, the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits has been waived for claimants who have been quarantined, as has the requirement for a medical certificate.
Income Support - Not Qualified for EI Sickness Benefits
Q: What does income support look like for workers who do not qualify for EI sickness benefits?
A: The Emergency Care Benefit provides up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. This flat-payment Benefit would be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provide income support to:
- - Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
- Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
- Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school or daycare closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.
Application for the Benefit will be available in April 2020 and require Canadians to attest that they meet the eligibility requirements. They will need to re-attest every two weeks to reconfirm their eligibility. Canadians will select one of three channels to apply for the Benefit:
1. by accessing it on their CRA MyAccount secure portal;
2. by accessing it from their secure My Service Canada Account; or
3. by calling a toll free number equipped with an automated application process.
More information on Emergency Care Benefit
- - Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.