The epidemiological situation having recently worsened in Quebec at the beginning of 2021, the province’s premier announced additional measures yesterday to “break the second wave” of the pandemic. These measures will come into force this Saturday, January 9, and remain in place until February 8, 2021, inclusively.
Of these new measures, the curfew will be of particular interest to employers. The Quebec government is also extending, albeit with certain changes, the measures that were announced last December 15 for the “holiday break” that we covered in our last update, namely mandatory teleworking and the closure of non-priority commercial enterprises throughout the province. Here is an overview of the important takeaways:
Curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. starting January 9, 2021
Starting this Saturday, January 9, no one will be allowed to leave his or her home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The Quebec government specifies in the press release published by the premier’s office that some exceptions will apply.
Today, Quebec’s deputy minister and minister of public security mentioned that a list of exceptions is published on the government’s website. The list includes an exception for individuals “whose presence in the workplace is essential,” but does not go so far as to provide any details on what might be considered an “essential presence.”
To enforce the curfew, police officers can issue statements of offence along with fines of anywhere between $1000 and $6000 to individuals who are not in their homes between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they have a legitimate reason for travelling.
In such a case, employees whose presence in the workplace is essential may be required to present proof provided by their employers justifying the fact that they are travelling during curfew. Employers are therefore invited to provide their employees with an attestation to that effect to help them prove that they need to travel during curfew. A model employer attestation (in French only) was published today.
An order should soon be published regarding this confinement measure by Saturday, January 9, 2021.
Teleworking mandatory until February 8, 2021
There is every reason to believe that ministerial order no. 2020-105 (Ministerial Order 2020-105) issued by the minister of health and social services will remain in force, at least until February 8. Remember that Ministerial Order 2020-105 establishes that all employees of enterprises, organizations or bodies of the public administration who perform administrative duties or office work must continue to do so by teleworking, from their private residences or their equivalent, except employees whose presence is essential to maintaining the business of the enterprise, organization or body.
Manufacturing and construction sectors
It bears noting that based on information the government published on its website, manufacturers and construction companies may pursue their activities, but reduced to a minimum to complete their current commitments. Also, employers in these sectors are asked to adjust work shifts so as to limit the staff present at any time on production and construction sites. Teleworking will also be mandatory whenever possible.
During the January 6, 2021, press conference, the Quebec premier asked businesses in this sector to “postpone producing anything that is not essential and maintain only essential activities.”
For the time being, the measures that apply to manufacturers and construction companies are a recommendation of the Quebec government. Close attention will need to be paid to the order-in-council or ministerial order that will be published on the subject.
Non-priority commercial enterprises closed until February 8, 2021
Since last December 25, all non-priority commercial enterprises, including personal and beauty care services, are closed throughout the province. This closure will be extended until February 8 inclusively.
Pursuant to the December 23, 2020, order-in-council 1419-2020 (Order in Council 1419-2020) and the December 30, 2020, ministerial order 2020-108 (Ministerial Order 2020-108), only the following priority commercial enterprises have been authorized to pursue their activities since December 25, 2020:
- Grocery stores and other food stores
- Hardware stores
- Service stations
- Convenience stores
- Animal feed and supply stores
- Work-related safety and protective equipment stores
- Stores that sell products, parts, and other material necessary for transportation and logistics services and vehicle repair or maintenance, including vehicle repair and maintenance centres, but excluding the sale of vehicles
- Farm product stores (mechanical, fertilizer, etc.)
- Medical, orthopedic and eye care products stores
- Household and building cleaning products stores
- Stores that offer computer and electronic equipment repair services
- Stores that offer outdoor recreational equipment repair and rental services
- Stores that offer tool rental and repair services
- Stores situated in post-secondary establishments offering material required specifically for classes in the establishment
- Big-box stores
- Société des alcools du Québec
- Société québécoise du cannabis
In the case of big-box stores, pharmacies and hardware stores, Order in Council 1419-2020 specifies that only products essential to everyday life may be sold to customers. Anyone running these types of businesses must take the necessary measures to prevent non-essential products from being accessed or sold. For the time being, Order in Council 1419 2020 and Ministerial Order 2020-108 will remain in force.
However, the government announced yesterday that pickups will continue to be allowed both for priority and non-priority commercial enterprises. Priority commercial enterprises must also close no later than at 7:30 due to the 8 p.m. curfew. Pharmacies may remain open during the curfew, but can only sell medications and essential products. Service stations can also remain open, but they can only sell food, gasoline, and products for road vehicles.
The day after these important announcements were made, Quebec employers are waiting for additional information. At the time this legal update was drafted, there is no order-in-council or ministerial order published by the government that regulates the curfew, the measures that apply to the manufacturers and construction companies, or the extension of mandatory teleworking and closure of non-priority commercial enterprises. Meanwhile, businesses whose activities are not described in the list of priority commercial enterprises published by the government may ask whether they qualify as priority businesses by filling out the form available on the government’s website.
We will keep you informed of any further developments regarding the measures that apply to employers.