This blog was prepared with the assistance of summer law student Matthew Taras.
On July 9, 2021, the Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, released a Public Health Order announcing that the Province of Saskatchewan will enter Step Three of the Re-opening Roadmap on July 11. The required threshold for Step Three is that 70% of people aged 18 and above have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, with at least three weeks having passed since the implementation of Step Two.
Initially, Step Three of the Re-opening Roadmap involved lifting all remaining public health orders with the exception of limits on gathering sizes and indoor masking. However, the Government of Saskatchewan announced that as long as 70% of people aged 12 and above had received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine all existing public health orders related to the prevention and control of COVID-19 will be rescinded, taking effect at 12:01 a.m. on July 11.
Masking will no longer be required. However, individuals may still wish to wear masks depending on the circumstances. Employers may also keep mask requirements in place at workplaces at their discretion.
Large events will no longer be limited to a specific number of people, and physical distancing will no longer be mandatory. However, spacing and separating people, cleaning and disinfecting, and knowledge of emergency measures is still encouraged.
Considerations for Employers
Employers should remain keenly aware that there are still obligations they must meet under The Operational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020 that pertain to the risks posed by COVID-19, even though all public health orders have been rescinded. This includes the need to have an exposure control plan sufficient to meet the risk associated with an infectious organism that poses a “significantly increased exposure risk to a worker.” Employers who assess a high degree of risk at their worksites may decide to leave certain COVID-19 protocols in place, such as masking and frequent sanitization.
Employers should continue to assess and monitor all environmental risk factors including transmission rates within the local community and prevalence of variants of concern. Employers should fulfil the informational and training requirements needed (e.g. on knowledge of vaccine efficacy rates) to engage in risk mitigation strategies. This might mean considering alternative strategies to encourage workplace safety, like hosting vaccine clinics, implementing rapid testing and considering whether or not requiring disclosure of vaccination status is appropriate. COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces are still possible, particularly where individuals have not been fully vaccinated.
With the lifting of public health orders, employers should be acutely aware of the legal duties pertaining to layoff and severance that are situational, depending on the current state of public emergency, keeping in mind that the state of public emergency is also going to be lifted by Executive Order on July 11. For more information on layoff and severance considerations read our “Layoff and Severance Considerations for Employer” blog.
The MLT Aikins labour and employment team will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional updates on legal issues that may affect employers. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to our labour and employment team for help getting your organization prepared for addressing the impacts of the Government of Saskatchewan Re-opening plan.
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.