Alberta Aims to be “Open for Summer” but is Your Organization Ready?

On May 26, 2021, the Government of Alberta announced its “Open for Summer Plan,” aimed at easing public health restrictions as vaccination rates rise and hospitalization rates fall within the Province.

Stages of the Open for Summer Plan

The Open for Summer Plan involves three stages of reopening and the easing of public health measures in Alberta. Although the Province has provided projected timelines for each stage of reopening, the stages are triggered based on vaccination rates (i.e., percentage of eligible Albertans aged 12 or older who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine) and hospitalization rates:

  • Stage 1 commences two weeks after a 50% vaccination rate is reached and COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 800 and declining;
  • Stage 2 commences two weeks after a 60% vaccination rate is reached and COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 500 and declining; and
  • Stage 3 commences two weeks after a 70% vaccination rate is reached.

Since the Province met its Stage 1 vaccination and hospitalization rates on May 18, 2021, Stage 1 of the Open for Summer Plan will commence June 1, 2021. Based on current projections, the Province targets Stage 2 for mid-June and Stage 3 for late June or early July. All targeted dates are estimates only – vaccination and hospitalization rates are the determining factor of when the Province reaches each stage of reopening.

What public health measures and restrictions will be lifted?

At each stage, public health measures will become increasingly less restrictive. Some of the highlights of each stage include:

  • Stage 1: Outdoor social gatherings are permitted with up to 10 distanced attendees, with indoor social gathering still prohibited. Outdoor patio dining will resume with up to four household members or close contacts permitted at each table. Indoor restaurant dining is still prohibited. Personal and wellness services will reopen by appointment only.
  • Stage 2: The work from home order will be lifted, but work from home is still recommended. Distancing and masking requirements will remain in effect. Outdoor social gatherings will be permitted with up to 20 distanced attendees, and outdoor public gatherings (e.g., festivals) will be allowed with up to 150 attendees, with restrictions in place. Indoor and outdoor restaurant dining will be allowed with up to six people per table, not restricted to household members or close contacts. Personal and wellness services will be allowed to accept walk-ins.
  • Stage 3: All restrictions, including the indoor social gathering ban, will be lifted. However, isolation requirements for confirmed COVID-19 cases will remain and some measures will remain in continuing care settings.

A full overview of targeted guidelines is available on the Government of Alberta’s website. The Government will release additional details on restrictions as we approach each step. Businesses should continue to be mindful of and follow all applicable guidelines. MLT Aikins will continue to monitor these changing guidelines and restrictions, including the announcement of any modified, cancelled or new Ministerial Orders.

What does this mean for employers?

Many Albertans are excited about the idea of getting “back to normal,” but as public health guidelines change, new considerations emerge for employers. Based on the targeted dates for Stage 2, the Province could lift the work from home order as early as mid-June, although the Government still “recommends” work from home despite lifting the order at that stage. All restrictions could be lifted by the end of June if Stage 3 targeted dates are met. This means that Alberta’s workplaces are likely to change quickly.

As restrictions are lifted employers will need to consider how they plan to adjust their own workplaces. Employers may need to consider the following:

  • How and when will remote workers return to the worksite?
  • What work from home policies and practices will remain in place as employees return to the worksite?
  • What health and safety measures will employers need to add, modify or remove as government restrictions change?
  • How will COVID-19-related employee accommodation requests be addressed?

Our Labour and Employment team is available to assist employers as they address these and any other legal considerations related to the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.