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Bill 24: COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act

23-Jun-20

By McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team

On June 18, 2020, Bill 24: COVID-19 Pandemic Response Statutes Amendment Act 2020 (the “Bill”) received its first reading in the Alberta legislature. The Bill introduces amendments to 15 provincial statutes and aims to maintain response efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic despite the expiry of the Province’s state of emergency. These amendments will impact legislation governing labour and employment, child care, public health, and more.

The Bill also provides the Chief Medical Officer of Health with a broad regulation-making power to introduce or extend orders related to COVID-19 without a state of emergency imposed and to allow all current public health orders that have been enacted by the Chief Medical Officer of Health to remain in force. Specifically, the Bill extends various existing measures and Ministerial Orders, including:

  • The extension of unpaid job-protected leave under the Employment Standards (COVID-19 Leave) Regulation is extended until August 2021. This Regulation allows employees to take leave to care for a child due to school or daycare closures, or to care for an ill or self-isolating family member.
  • The extension of Public Health Order No. 10, which permits a health-care or continuing-care facility to limit employees to only working at one site.
  • The previously extended maximum period for temporary layoffs under the Employment Standards Code related to COVID-19 (from 60 to 120 days) is further extended to a maximum of 180 days. Once the legislation passes, this extension will be effective from the first reading of the Bill (June 18, 2020) and it encompasses employees who are presently on layoff and those who may be newly laid off. Upon reaching 180 consecutive days of layoff, termination pay will be required unless employees have agreed to an extension in exchange for certain payments or benefits. This 180-day extended layoff period continues until repealed.
  • The ability to remotely sign and witness estate documents, including personal directives, powers of attorney and wills, and guarantees through two-way video conferencing.
  • The provision of up-to-date guidance to businesses operating child care programs, including increasing the maximum cohort size from 10 to 30 staff and children. This measure will help operators reopen safely and ensure parents have access to child care as they return to work.

In addition to the extension of existing measures, the Bill also introduces new measures, including:

  • The change of requirements for municipalities in relation to temporary health facilities, including permitting exemptions for temporary facilities, such as drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites.
  • The extension of the deadline for the public release of Alberta’s annual report and financial statements until August 31, 2020.
  • The suspension of the limitation periods under the Private Vocational Training Act and Student Financial Assistance Act, with respect to claims related to private career colleges and student financial assistance, respectively.
  • The extension of the grace period expired for board member appointments to the Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board from three to five months.

Further, the use of emergency powers has been extended 60 days upon the expiry of the state of emergency.

Should you have questions about the Bill or its impact on existing legislation, please contact any member of our Labour & Employment team.

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