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Stricter COVID-19 restrictions announced in Alberta

Author(s): Brian Thiessen, QC, Briana MacEachern, Abigail Ywaya

Dec 9, 2020

On December 8, 2020, the Government of Alberta released new province-wide COVID-19 restrictions effective until at least January 12, 2021. These restrictions are in response to a large surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the province in recent weeks and mark a return to the type of restrictions seen in the first wave of the pandemic. The restrictions include business closures as well as new workplace restrictions and work-from-home requirements. A full list of the new restrictions can be found here. Of particular importance to employers are the workplace safety requirements including the mandatory masking requirements and work-from-home measures.

Mandatory work-from-home measures and masking requirements

Effective December 8, 2020, employees, customers, visitors, delivery personnel and contractors are required to wear masks in indoor workplaces at all times unless the employee is working alone in an office, in a safely distanced cubicle, or there is an appropriate barrier between individuals. Effective December 13, 2020, employees are required to work from home unless their employer requires a physical presence for operational effectiveness. In the absence of any interpretative guidance as to what constitutes “operational effectiveness,” to avoid any potential liability it may be prudent for employers to err on the side of caution and allow employees to work from home where possible unless it is absolutely necessary for the employees to be physically present in the workplace.

Business closures and service restrictions

Effective December 13, 2020, further service restrictions and mandatory closures will be in place for certain businesses and service providers. Notable closures and restrictions include the following:

  1. retail businesses, including shopping malls and grocery stores, must reduce capacity to 15% of fire code occupancy. Curbside pickup, delivery and online services are encouraged;
  2. restaurants, bars, pubs, lounges must close to the public except for take-out, curbside pickup and delivery;
  3. all entertainment facilities, including art galleries, libraries and museums, must close;
  4. all indoor recreation facilities, including gyms, fitness and recreation centres, pools and indoor rinks and arenas, must close;
  5. professional services, including lawyers, mediators, accountants and photographers, may remain open by appointment; and
  6. health services, including physicians, dentists, physiotherapists, optometrists, hearing aid practitioners, acupuncturists and naturopaths, may continue to remain open by appointment.

Employers in Alberta should review these new restrictions and identify any changes they may be required to make to comply. Employers should also familiarize themselves with additional COVID-19 considerations which can be found here. Since these new restrictions are similar to the restrictions implemented in the spring during the first wave of the pandemic, employers should already have policies and procedures prepared, if not already in place, to respond to these restrictions. For further information related to employers’ obligations in addressing COVID-19 and any other workplace issues arising from COVID-19, please contact one of the authors above or any member of our Employment and Labour Group.