Essential Business Designations in Canada

Written April 10, 2020

Categories: AD Advocacy, CP Advocacy, DP Advocacy, DT Advocacy, ES Advocacy, First to Know, FP Advocacy, GP Advocacy, SM Advocacy

Last Updated: April 7, 2020 at 3:30 PM

Due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus around the world, countries have been taking actions to help prevent the spread. One of the more common ones is to institute shelter-in-place orders and to close non-essential businesses.

Canada has not escaped the coronavirus and below is a summary of the actions taken so far to combat the spread of the virus.

Federal 

On April 2, the federal government issued non-binding guidance with a list of services and functions across ten critical infrastructure sectors, including but not limited to: manufacturing, energy, information and communication technologies, health, food, and transportation.

Provinces in Canada are issuing “shelter in place” orders. Here is a breakdown of what we know today:

Alberta 

A March 27th guidance was issued that lists essential services. The province’s list does not reference the supply chain, however, if your business type isn’t specifically listed as prohibited to operate, or if you don’t fall within specific parameters stating that you are prohibited to operate, you are safe to continue operations.

Workplaces that are not otherwise restricted or ordered to close can have no more than 15 workers on a work site as long as they follow all public health guidelines, including physical distancing measures.

Employers should:
• Self-assess and find alternate ways to organize large group meetings

• Cancel workplace gatherings of 15 or more people in a single space (such as training events)

• Employ mitigation strategies to limit risk

• Continue business continuity planning to prepare critical operations for any potential interruption

Essential businesses have been identified as:
• Health, medical and public health
• Public safety and security
• Food and Shelter
• Energy and Utilities
• Water
• Transportation
• Industrial
• Petroleum, natural gas, and coal
• Construction
• Agricultural and horticultural
• Retail
• Financial services
• Information and telecommunications
• Public administration and government
• Other Essential Services

More information can be found here.

British Columbia 

The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued an order that lists essential services, including but not limited to the following:

• Manufacturers and distributors (to include service centers and related operations) of packaging materials, pallets, crates, containers and other supplies needed to support manufacturing, packaging staging and distribution operations

• Workers supporting the chemical and industrial gas supply chains, including workers at chemical manufacturing plants, workers in laboratories, workers at distribution facilities, workers who transport basic raw chemical materials to the producers of industrial and consumer goods and support the natural resource sector, as well as workers supporting safety at such facilities

• Businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials, including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers (e.g., primary metal/steel, blow molding, component manufacturers, chemicals, etc., that feed the end-product manufacturer)

• Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, aquaculture and fishing, and businesses that support the food supply chain, as well as community gardens and subsistence agriculture

• Food processing, manufacturing, storage and distribution of foods, feed products and beverages

The list also includes the manufacturing of goods necessary for the continued and immediate operation of other essential infrastructure and businesses which reflects the importance of the supply chains necessary to support the province’s critical manufacturing sector.

More information can be found here.

Manitoba 

To date, the Government of Manitoba has not announced any upcoming changes with respect to its employment standards legislation in response to COVID-19. Similar to other jurisdictions, the Government of Manitoba has advised of the following:

• Employers are encouraged to review their business continuity plans and take appropriate steps to ensure their employees can stay home due to COVID-19 without facing barriers such as the requirement for sick notes; and

• Employers should also discontinue non-essential, work-related travel outside of Manitoba and encourage virtual meetings to reduce prolonged, close contact between individuals.

New Brunswick

To date, the Government of New Brunswick has not announced any upcoming changes with respect to its employment standards legislation; however, the New Brunswick government advised it is currently in discussions with provincial unions to develop workers' mobility agreements to help facilitate workers' mobility into jobs.

The New Brunswick government announced on March 16, 2020 that, based upon recommendations by its Chief Medical Officer of Health, all non-essential government services will be shut down effective March 17, 2020 until further notice. As a result, all non-essential public sector employees are asked to stay at home but will otherwise remain on the payroll.

Newfoundland and Labrador

To date, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has not announced any upcoming changes with respect to its employment standards legislation in response to COVID-19. Nonetheless, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced on March 13, 2020 that, based upon recommendations by its Chief Medical Officer of Health, anyone returning from travel outside of the country is required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days upon their return. The province's 14-day self-isolation requirement is effective as of March 13, 2020 and compensation will be provided to any affected employees to ensure continuation of pay.

Northwest Territories

To date, the Government of the Northwest Territories has not announced any upcoming changes with respect to its employment standards legislation in response to COVID-19.

Nova Scotia

To date, the Government of Nova Scotia has not announced any upcoming changes with respect to its employment legislation in response to COVID-19. Nonetheless, Nova Scotia's Chief Executive Officer of Health announced on March 18, 2020 that, in order to increase the capacity of the province's health system to respond to COVID-19, employers cannot require a doctor's note if employees must be off work because they are be sick or need to self-isolate at home. The Government of Nova Scotia's webpage discussing COVID-19 also advises that all Nova Scotians should not leave the province and only leave home for essential items and services, which arguably may entitle some workers to an emergency leave of absence under the Labour Standards Code.

Nunavut

To date, the Government of Nunavut has not announced any upcoming any upcoming changes with respect to its employment standards legislation in response to COVID-19. Nonetheless, the Government of Nunavut's Chief Public Health Officer announced on March 13, 2020 that, effective as of March 13, 2020, sick notes will no longer be issued by the Department of Health until further notice and employers are recommended to waive the requirements for sick notes. Other measures taken by the Government of Nunavut includes providing 14 days of self-isolation paid leave to all Government of Nunavut employees experiencing flu-like symptoms or advised to self-isolate at home.

Ontario

The Ontario government has issued a list of categories of essential workplaces that are permitted to remain open, under the authority granted under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (Ontario), as the province responds to the evolving COVID-19 outbreak.

The list of essential workplaces includes:
• Supply chains: Businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services with the support, supplies, systems or services, including processing, packaging, distribution, delivery and maintenance necessary to operate.

• Businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials, including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers (e.g. primary metal/ steel, blow molding, component manufacturers, chemicals, etc. that feed the end-product manufacturer);

• Businesses, facilities and services that support and facilitate the two-way movement of essential goods within integrated North American and Global supply chains

• Businesses that farm, harvest, process, manufacture, produce or distribute food, including beverages, crops, animal products and by-products, aquaculture, hunting and fishing

• Businesses that support the food supply chain including assembly yards, livestock auctions, food distribution hubs, feed mills, farm equipment suppliers, feed suppliers, food terminals and warehouses, animal slaughter plants and grain elevators

• Business that support the safety of food including animal and plant health and animal welfare

• Businesses that provide veterinary services, and that supply veterinary and animal control medications and related supplies and testing kits

• Businesses that help to ensure safe and effective waste management including deadstock, rendering, nutrient management, biohazardous materials, green waste, packaging recycling

• Manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies, including medications, medical isotopes, vaccines and antivirals; medical devices and medical supplies

• Manufacturers, logistics and distributors of products and/or services that support the delivery of health care in all locations (including but not limited to hospitals, labs, long-term care homes, other residential health care, physicians, nurse practitioners and midwives, and home care services)

• Businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of mining materials and products (e.g. metals such as copper, nickel and gold) and that support supply chains in Northern Ontario including:

• Businesses that provide chemicals and gases to support the natural resource sector analytical labs and drinking water and wastewater sectors and other essential businesses

• Businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of forestry products (e.g. lumber, pulp, paper, wood fuel, etc.)

• Businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of aggregates to support critical infrastructure repairs and emergency response requirements (e.g. sandbags, armour stone barriers, etc.)

• Businesses that ensure global continuity of supply of petroleum and petroleum by-products

More information can be found here.

Prince Edward Island

A March 25th order was issued that defined essential services that can remain open. Essential services have been defined as “services that the interruption of which would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population,” including:

• Food manufacturers
• Industrial manufacturers

Non-essential services have been defined as “services not providing food supplies, health, financial support or utilities and when not offered to the public will not impact life, health or personal safety.”

More information can be found here.

Quebec

The Government of Quebec published its list of essential services and activities yesterday. Businesses which fall under any of the 11 categories provided are considered “essential” and are allowed to remain open:

• Priority health care services;
• Public security services;
• Priority government services;
• Maintenance and operation of strategic infrastructure;
• Priority manufacturing activities;
• Priority stores;
• Media and telecommunications;
• Banking and financial services;
• Construction sector;
• Building maintenance services; and
• Priority transportation and logistics services.

The Government also issued a notice that states that all businesses can always engage in teleworking and e-commerce. Further, businesses that produce inputs or raw materials necessary for priority services and activities must maintain their activities, accordingly, bearing in mind the directives from public health authorities.

Businesses that provide non-essential services, excluding stores, can maintain minimal operations to ensure the resumption of their activities, bearing in mind the directives issued by public health authorities.

Saskatchewan

The province issued guidance that lists allowable business services, including but not limited to those listed below:

• Production, processing and supply chains of the mining sector
• Production, processing and supply chains of the forestry sector
• Production, processing and supply chains of the energy and oil and gas sectors
• Production, processing and supply chains of the agriculture sector, including animal care
• Production, processing and supply chains of the manufacturing sector
• Businesses, facilities and services that support and carry‐out the two‐way movement of essential goods within integrated North American and Global supply chains

More information can be found here.