Step 1 of SK Reopening Roadmap Begins, Public Health Orders Updated

This blog was prepared with the assistance of summer student Matthew Taras.

On May 30, 2021, Saskatchewan implemented an updated provincial public health order (PHO) that relaxes some COVID-19 restrictions as part of step one of the Re-Opening Roadmap.

Notably, the new PHO consolidates the previous provincial public health order, the face coverings order, and the bars and restaurants order.

The PHO raises the capacity limits on gatherings and table capacity in bars and restaurants:

  • Private indoor gatherings will increase to 10 (up from four, five in certain circumstances) and public indoor gatherings will increase to 30;
  • Public outdoor gatherings will increase to allow for a maximum of 150 people;
  • Restaurants and bars will now be able to seat six (up from four) people at a table or counter.

In addition, the new PHO incorporates a definition of “gathering”, which now means, “a grouping of individuals in general proximity to each other who have assembled for a common purpose or reason, regardless of whether it occurs in public or at a private dwelling or on other private property…”

Workplaces remain exempt from the general gathering restrictions, so long as physical distancing is maintained or other measures are in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Employers should consult the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan (Plan) for the specific guidance relevant to their workplace and comply with any alternative gathering sizes provided in the Plan.

The new PHO also provides additional clarity on the categories of businesses and other organizations and activities that are subject to gathering restrictions, except where otherwise specified in the Plan, including:

  • Employees, independent contractors, or volunteers engaged in work activities
  • Employees or volunteers while residing at work camps
  • Individuals receiving services from a business, institution, government office, association, or other organization
  • Court sittings
  • Students attending post-secondary education

Gathering limits will also apply to any outbuildings associated with a private dwelling, which includes “any area that has a roof and two or more enclosing walls.” The restrictions do not apply to outbuildings associated with businesses, such as a garden centre or a patio.

Physical distancing measures and face covering requirements will remain in place for now and are unaltered from the previous public health orders. However, the Premier recently announced that various restrictions, including face coverings, could be lifted by July 11, 2021, dependent on meeting COVID-19 vaccination targets.

The former bars and restaurants order has been rolled into the new PHO. Restrictions on bars and restaurants do not apply to industrial camps and certain other businesses that do not serve food to the general public, such as personal care homes. However, employers may choose to follow similar requirements as part of their workplace health and safety program. At this time, food and beverage service at banquets and events, e.g. meetings, conferences, and educational presentations, continues to be prohibited, except in specific designated areas.

The changes to the PHO are consistent with step one of the Re-Opening Roadmap announced on May 4, 2021. In addition, the PHO permits certain recreational and competitive outdoor sports and activities, except for tournaments. Restrictions on outdoor sports and activities were initially slated to be loosened at step two.

The Province has announced June 20, 2021 as the planned start date for step two of the Re-Opening Roadmap. Step two will see an additional lifting of capacity restrictions for both private and public gatherings, and relaxing of restrictions on retail businesses.

Although the lifting of restrictions signifies a hopeful return to normal, the Government continues to advise caution and notes that many COVID-19 prevention measures are still recommended despite no longer being mandatory. Individuals and businesses should use appropriate judgment when lifting restrictions or increasing contact with others.

Employers should consider how they plan to adapt their workplaces in response to relaxed restrictions, including:

  • Is there a need to update existing COVID-19 plans and protocol documents?
  • How can employers adjust to increased capacity limits while still maintaining physical distancing?
  • Is there a need to retain restrictions in place in your workplace even if restrictions in the PHO are substantially eliminated
  • Is there a need to update remote work policies going forward?

MLT Aikins will continue to monitor and update the status of COVID-19 restrictions in Saskatchewan. Employers with questions regarding navigating COVID-19 in the workplace are encouraged to contact a member of our labour and employment team.

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.