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Quebec Cancels Boxing Day: Additional Shutdown Measures Announced Affecting Retail Businesses in the Province

New measures have been announced since this was published. Our blog post regarding the measures announced by the government on January 06, 2021 is available here.

On December 15, 2020, the Quebec government announced additional shutdown measures for the holiday period to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which affect almost all retail businesses in the province.

1. Non-priority commercial enterprises are required to close from December 25, 2020, up to and including January 10, 2021

Retail stores and personal care and beauty care enterprises that are not considered to be “priority commercial enterprises” will have to close from December 25, 2020, up to and including January 10, 2021. In contrast to the forced shutdown of “non-essential services” that was mandated in the Spring, this round of closures targets “non-priority commercial enterprises”, which seems to target any enterprise providing goods or services to the public directly. Therefore, other types of businesses (including, for example, manufacturing plants) are not targeted by these rules.

These measures reflect the Quebec government’s efforts to limit the spread of the virus while protecting, to the extent possible, retail operations. Some of the measures being imposed for this round of closures are summarized below.

The list of businesses considered “priority commercial enterprises” and authorized to continue operations during the shutdown is available here. This list presents notable differences from the round of closures that were mandated in the Spring, and defines not only the types of stores allowed to remain open, but also the type of products some of them will be allowed to sell.

The following priority commercial enterprises are among the categories of stores that are allowed to remain open:

  • Hardware stores are authorized to remain open, but only the sale of products required for outdoor maintenance, repair or construction will be authorized. We do not expect the government to issue further guidance with respect to what will be considered “products required for outdoor maintenance, repairs or construction”.

  • Pharmacies are authorized to remain open, but only the sale of products essential to everyday life will be authorized. The government has not issued any guidance as to what will be considered to be “products essential to everyday life”.

  • Big-box stores and other sales areas offering customers a wide variety of categories of products, including food, pharmacy, or hardware products are authorized to remain open, but only the sale of products usually sold in one of the stores listed below is authorized.

    • Grocery stores and other food stores

    • Pharmacies (products essential to everyday life only)

    • Hardware stores (products required for outdoor maintenance, repairs, or construction only)

    • Service stations

    • Pet food and supply stores

    • Work equipment stores (safety and protection)

    • Stores that sell products, parts, and other material necessary for transportation and logistics services, and vehicle repair or maintenance, including vehicle repair and maintenance centres, but excluding the sale of vehicles

    • The sale of toys, clothing, books, electronic devices, decorative items, cookware, and household appliances is explicitly not authorized.

  • Shopping centers may only leave open the traffic areas that ensure access to commercial enterprises that are authorized to remain open.

  • Pickup of items that have been purchased remotely (both curbside or inside a retail establishment) is allowed solely for stores authorized to pursue their operations in respect of the products that they are authorized to sell in store.

  • E-commerce or any other form of distance commerce where products are delivered to customers is authorized for all enterprises, including non-priority commercial enterprises.

  • Repair and rental services are authorized to continue for retail stores that offer computer and electronic equipment repair services, or stores that offer repair or equipment rental services, sports and outdoor recreation equipment, or tool rental services can remain open, but only for such services.

  • Professional healthcare services (such as dentists and physiotherapists) may pursue their activities, but beauty care and personal care services (such as hairdressers and spas) must close, except for care necessary for a patient’s state of health, such as post-operative or therapeutic follow-up.

The operators of big-box stores, hardware stores and pharmacies are responsible for ensuring that the necessary measures have been taken to prevent the sale of products they are not authorized to sell. Big-box stores have the additional responsibility of preventing customer access to non-authorized products. The government has not issued any guidance as to what steps will be sufficient for the operators of big-box stores, hardware stores, and pharmacies to take in order to prevent the sale of and access to non-authorized products, and who will have the final say on which items are or are not authorized for sale.

The retail shutdowns outlined above are mandated under Order in Council no. 1419-2020 and Ministerial Order 2020-108.

The commercial enterprises that are allowed to remain open must continue to respect all COVID measures that are already in place. For more information on these rules, you can check out our previous blog post on the topic here. Failure to adhere to the rules puts retailers at risk of significant fines. During press conferences, the Quebec government announced that inspections will be increased.

2. Mandatory work-from-home for office workers from December 17, 2020 up to and including January 10, 2021

On December 15, 2020, the Quebec government also announced that between December 17, 2020, up to and including January 10, 2021, all employees who perform administrative tasks or do office work would be required to do work from home, unless their physical presence is deemed to be essential for the business of the employer. The government explained that what is “essential” would be left up to the discretion of the employer. However, we note that employers will want to interpret this notion restrictively to ensure ongoing compliance with governmental orders.

Ministerial Order 2020-105 was published on December 17, 2020 and reads as follows with regards to the work from home rule:

“THAT all the employees of enterprises, organizations or bodies of the public administration who perform administrative duties or office work continue to do so by teleworking, from their private residence or its equivalent, except employees whose presence is essential to maintaining the business of the enterprise, organization or body”

This blog post was updated on January 5, 2021.

For more information on issues arising from COVID-19, please visit our COVID-19 Recovery Hub.

For more information on employment-related information, please visit our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor Blog or reach out to any member of our National Labour & Employment Team.



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