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UPDATE: Alberta Government Announces Details of COVID-19 Leave

On March 16, 2020, Field Law reported on the Alberta government’s plans to amend the Employment Standards Code to allow employees who are required to self-isolate or care for a family member with COVID-19 to take 14 days of paid leave to cover the recommended self-isolation period. 

On March 17, 2020, the Alberta government issued an Order in Council to amend the Employment Standards Regulations and create a COVID-19 leave. This amendment comes after last week’s announcement that employment rules would be changed to protect Albertan employees as they balance work and public health concerns. Importantly, these changes are retroactive to March 5, 2020.

Despite initial indications that the leave would be paid, the amendments provide Albertan employees with 14 consecutive days of unpaid leave if the employee is under quarantine. In other words, employees’ jobs are protected but wages are not owed during this COVID-19 leave.

“Quarantine” has been defined broadly to include “any self-isolation and self-quarantine as a result of COVID-19, as may be recommended or directed by the Chief Medical Officer”. At the time of publishing, self-isolation is recommended if you are symptomatic, returning from travel outside Canada, or exposed to COVID-19.Given the rapidly changing situation and the increasing severity of public health recommendations and directives, we expect that any definition of “quarantine” would favour the interests of public health.

Employees will not need doctors’ notes nor will they have had to work for the previous 90 days to qualify for the COVID-19 leave.Further, employees are not required to give any notice to the employer of the date they intend to return to work.

Given how rapidly the COVID-19 situation is changing in Alberta, the regulations leave open the possibility of extending the COVID-19 leave on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer.

Further recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer and other updates on COVID-19 are available on the Alberta Health Services (AHS) website.

If you have any questions about managing COVID-19 or other potential pandemics in your workplace, the lawyers in Field Law’s Labour and Employment Group are available to answer your questions and advise you and/or your organization.