SK to Allow COVID-19 Rapid Testing in Workplaces

On June 10, 2021, the Saskatchewan Government announced that it amended The Medical Laboratory Licensing Regulations, 1995, allowing Saskatchewan businesses and individuals to access rapid antigen tests to help screen for COVID-19 in asymptomatic people.

Before the amendments, individuals and business needed to obtain a formal agreement with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to access rapid antigen tests.

Health Minister Paul Merriman spoke of the provincial government’s commitment to improve access to health care services and the necessary tools to address the pandemic. Regarding the amended Regulations, Minister Merriman said, “[t]his step means that businesses and individuals can easily procure and use these tests, helping asymptomatic people who have COVID-19 receive testing and treatment more quickly. Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get vaccinated.”

Broader access to rapid antigen testing is part of the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s Test to Protect program, contributing alongside vaccinations to the province’s multi-layered approach to pandemic response. SHA’s Testing Chief Carrie Dornstauder said, “The Test to Protect community rapid antigen testing program provides workplaces with early detection of COVID-19 ensuring a strong and healthy workplace and workforce through outbreak prevention.”

What Are Rapid Antigen Tests?

Rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 is used as a screening test for asymptomatic individuals to help sort those who are probably not infected from individuals who need to be investigated further. These tests produce results in less than 30 minutes by detecting the COVID-19 antigen (protein) in viral molecules.

The Test to Protect program is currently using two types of antigen testing, Abbott PanBio Nasal Tests and BD Veritor Nasal Tests. Both tests collect a sample using a swab that goes into the upper part of each nostril. The rapid antigen test is a painless, easily administered means of screening; if a person receives positive results, an in-lab confirmatory test would be required.

The antigen test is good at detecting people who are shedding moderate to high levels of the virus, and is not affected by whether a person is vaccinated or not. If an antigen test is positive, it is very likely the person has COVID-19. However, antigen tests are not as good as in-lab tests at detecting infections and may be negative even if a person is infected; self-monitoring for symptoms continues to be important.

How Can Employers Request Tests?

Large national businesses operating in Saskatchewan wanting  to use the tests can request them through the Federal Government’s online business portal. Small- and medium-sized enterprises in the province can apply for rapid tests from the SHA by submitting the Test to Protect Intake Application Form. The Government notes that tests will be provided for workplace screenings as supplies allow; Saskatchewan will prioritize its federal allocation of rapid antigen tests for health care professionals and existing priority settings.

For more information on rapid antigen testing in Saskatchewan, and other current information, visit the provincial government’s COVID-19 webpage.

Legal Considerations

Employers should consider the legal consequences of implementing a rapid testing program at their workplaces as part of their pandemic response plans and COVID-19 protocols. Consideration should be given to what type of testing program is suitable for your workplace, including testing frequency and whether testing can be implemented on a voluntary or mandatory basis. Read our “Is Mandatory COVID-19 Testing for Employees Reasonable?” blog to learn more.

MLT Aikins will continue to monitor developments with respect to COVID-19 and antigen testing in the workplace. Stay tuned for further insights on this and other issues.

For further information on implementing a rapid testing program in your workplace, please contact one of our labour and employment lawyers.

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.