Manitoba to Close Non-Critical Businesses in Light of COVID-19

Authors: Kristin Gibson, Christine Jeroski

On March 30, 2020, the government of Manitoba announced by news release that a new public health order under The Public Health Act (Manitoba) would come into force on April 1, 2020 (the “Order”).

Update: On April 16, 2020, the government of Manitoba announced that the Order has now been extended to May 1, 2020.  

Among other measures, including restricting public gatherings to no more than 10 people, the Order significantly restricts the operations of non-critical businesses.

The Order outlines certain businesses and undertakings considered to be critical businesses. Businesses that are classified as “critical” may remain open, but must implement measures to ensure that persons attending the place of business are reasonably able to maintain separation of at least two metres from other persons attending the business. Under the Order, critical services can be broadly characterized as:

  • Supply chains;
  • Retail and wholesale for groceries, hardware, fuel, office supplies, animal care;
  • Transportation;
  • Accommodations;
  • Manufacturing;
  • Institutional, residential, commercial and industrial construction and maintenance;
  • Communications and telecommunications;
  • Food production;
  • Finance;
  • Natural resources and environmental services;
  • Utilities and public works;
  • Health care, seniors care and social services;
  • Justice sector; and
  • Certain professional services.

Note that under the Order, restaurants or other commercial facilities where food is served are prohibited from serving food to customers for consumption at their premises, however they may sell food for delivery or takeout so long as they implement measures to ensure sufficient separation between patrons. Additionally, municipal public transportation services such as taxis for hire may continue to operate so long as their operators have implemented measures to ensure that passengers are able to maintain reasonable separation from other persons in the vehicle.

All businesses which do not fall into the schedule of critical businesses must close between April 1 to May 1, 2020, subject to extension. This includes, among other businesses, bars and personal services such as hair salons and massage therapy offices.

The Order, however, does not restrict non-critical businesses from operating remotely, and such businesses may take provide goods or services over the internet/phone and arrange for contactless delivery so long as their employees are not physically working in the place of business. Further, the Order does not prevent employees or others from attending to a business to do repairs, provide security services, or to take items out of the premises if the business will be operating on a remote basis.

We recognize that these new restrictions have significant implications for all businesses, but particularly for those that are required to close. As noted in an earlier post, the province has announced that layoffs due to COVID-19 will not constitute termination of employment.

The MLT Aikins labour and employment team will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional updates on legal issues that may impact employers. Employers considering the impact of the Order and how their business would be classified under the Order should contact a member of our labour and employment team in Winnipeg.

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.