COVID-19 Update: Alberta Government Announces Additional Restrictions, Work From Home Mandate and Restriction Exemption Program
On September 15, 2021, the Alberta Government announced additional restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures include an immediate work from home mandate, a series of restrictions on businesses, and the introduction of a Restriction Exemption Program (the “REP”).
Work From Home Mandate
The Alberta Government announced immediate mandatory work from home measures. Under these measures, employees are to work from home unless the employer has determined that a physical presence is required for operational effectiveness.
If employees continue to work on-site, they must wear a mask at all times when indoors, unless alone in their work stations, where two metre physical distancing is maintained, or where adequate physical barriers are in place. These restrictions also apply to anyone entering the workplace, including delivery drivers and couriers.
The Restrictions Exemption Program
Beginning September 20, 2021, businesses must comply with one of the following two options, either:
- Implement the Province’s REP, or
- Follow additional operational and capacity restrictions.
Businesses that choose to implement the REP will be allowed to operate as usual, provided they only serve people that: (1) present proof that they have received two vaccinations against COVID-19, (2) have documentation of a medical exemption, or (3) have proof of a negative, privately-paid COVID-19 test (PCR or rapid test) completed within the last 72 hours. Proof of a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be accepted for a transitional period between September 20 and October 25, 2021, as long as the dose was given two weeks or more before the time of service. Children under 12 years old will not need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter a REP participating business.
For proof of vaccination, the Government will recognize either pharmacy or government-issued vaccination records. Original documents are not required; photographs or screenshots of an individual’s proof of vaccination will be acceptable forms of demonstrating vaccination status. Further, a printable vaccination card will be available for download on MyHealth Records beginning September 19, 2021, and the development of a QR Code-based system is currently underway. There is, however, no indication at present whether this QR Code-based system will alter the acceptable proof of vaccination methods outlined above.
The REP does not apply to employees of businesses participating in the program. Therefore employees will not be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test on entering the workplace in order for a business to qualify for the REP. While an employer may consider imposing a mandatory vaccination policy, legal advice should be obtained in advance.
Businesses do not need to apply for the program. Audits and enforcement will occur to ensure that the rules are being followed. Businesses or entities that need to be accessed for daily living, such as grocery stores, are not eligible for the REP.
Current masking requirements will continue regardless of a business’ participation in the REP.
Restrictions Imposed on non-REP Participating Businesses
Businesses and entities that choose not to participate in the REP will be subject to additional restrictions on their operations and occupancy. Restrictions relevant to businesses include:
Effective September 20, 2021
- Restaurants, Cafes, Bars, Pubs, and Nightclubs
- Indoor dining is prohibited.
- Outdoor dining is limited to a maximum of 6 people per table (comprised of one household or a person living alone and two close contacts).
- Alcohol sales must end at 10 p.m.
- Alcohol consumption must end by 11 p.m.
- Retail, Entertainment, and Recreation Facilities
- Indoor events are limited to 1/3 of fire code capacity.
- Indoor attendees must be with their household members only, or two close contacts for those living alone.
- Masks must be worn indoors and two metre distancing is required at all times.
- Fully outdoor events and venues (excluding washrooms) have no capacity restrictions, but must maintain two metre distancing between household groups or those living alone and their two close contacts.
- Sports, Fitness, Recreation, and Performance
- No indoor group classes or activities are permitted.
- Three metre physical distancing must be maintained for one-on-one training or individual workouts.
- Indoor sporting competitions are paused except where vaccine exemptions have been granted.
- There are no restrictions for outdoor activities.
- Weddings and Funerals
- All indoor ceremonies and services are limited to 50 attendees or 1/2 of fire code capacity, whichever is less.
- No indoor receptions are permitted.
- All outdoor ceremonies and services for weddings and funerals must be limited to 200 attendees.
- Outdoor receptions are required to follow alcohol sales and consumption restrictions and must cease at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively.
Additional restrictions were also announced with regard to social gatherings, places of worship, and schools.
As noted, a business or entity that chooses to participate in the REP will be able to continue operating as usual.
We at McCarthy Tétrault are continuing to monitor the changes brought by this announcement. Watch our COVID-19 Recovery Hub and our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor Blog for further updates. In the interim, if you are an employer and have any questions about these changes or any other COVID-19 workplace matter, please contact any member of our Labour & Employment Team.