Gradual Re-opening During COVID-19 – Considerations for Saskatchewan Employers

On April 23, 2020 the Saskatchewan government released details about its current five phase plan to re-open the Saskatchewan economy. The plan provides guidelines for a variety of different industries and the restrictions that will remain in place even as further businesses are permitted to operate.

Saskatchewan employers will have many issues to address as the government’s plan is implemented or modified. This blog highlights some of the core issues employers should consider when formulating their own plans for re-opening.

Recalling Employees

Due to the significant impact of COVID-19 many employers are unlikely to simply return to business as before immediately. There are several important questions employers should ask themselves when recalling employees, including:

  • How many employees can be recalled?
  • How will you decide the order of recall?
  • What is the expected timeline for recalls?
  • How will recall be communicated to employees?
  • Will job hours or job duties change?
  • Will compensation change?
  • Will employees be asked to sign a recall agreement?
  • What to do if an employee refuses to return to work?

Whether employees are recalled, and the number of employees recalled, may have important legal consequences for employers – both in relation to the employees recalled and those who are not. Employers should consider seeking legal advice to review how to minimize or mitigate risks.

Union Issues

Unionized employers will need to consider the terms of any applicable collective agreements when planning for re-opening. Collective agreements may impact the order in which employees are recalled as well as potentially restrict changes in work hours or duties. Unionized employers should consider whether they need to enter a specific Letter of Understanding with the union to achieve their re-opening plan.

Occupational Health and Safety Issues and Physical Distancing

There are many additional occupational health and safety issues related to COVID-19. Employers should review what additional steps they may need to take to ensure workplace safety when permitted to re-open. In particular, employers should ensure that they have reviewed their workplace exposure control plans to ensure that the plan meets the government’s public health guidelines and the requirements of The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996.

All businesses and customers are expected to continue and maintain physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection practices when permitted to open.

Conclusion

Saskatchewan employers should carefully review the Saskatchewan Government’s plan to see where they fit within the phased approach, and carefully follow further government orders and directions.

Employers should consider creating their own plans and guidelines now to implement when they are permitted to re-open.

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 of opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.