On May 22, 2020 the government of Saskatchewan published amendments to The Employment Standards Regulations (the "Amendments") which revised the government's approach to temporary layoffs, group termination notices and public health emergency leave.
This blog provides an overview of the important changes that are contained in the Amendments.
First, the Amendments make important changes to the applicability of the layoff provisions set out within The Saskatchewan Employment Act (the "Act") in the context of a public emergency.
The Amendments establish that during the entirety of a public emergency period, employers and employees are exempt from the provisions of – and employees are not entitled to rely upon – the layoff provisions of the Act.
Further, Saskatchewan employers and employees now continue to be exempt from the layoff provisions of the Act for an additional two weeks from the date on which the public emergency period is no longer in force.
However, by the end of that two-week period the employer must have scheduled any laid off employees back to work. If any employees have not been scheduled back to work at the end of the two-week period, those employees are deemed to have been terminated and are entitled to pay in lieu of notice to be calculated from the original date on which the employer laid off the employees.
If any employees have been scheduled to work with the employer but do not return to work, those employees are deemed to have resigned.
These changes replace the previous amendments to The Employment Standards Regulations which allowed for employers to implement temporary layoffs (12 weeks in any 16-week period) without providing notice or pay in lieu of notice pursuant to the Act.
Group Termination Notices
The Amendments also modify the notice requirements in relation to group terminations that occur during public emergency periods. If a group termination occurs during a public emergency period, the employer is exempt from providing the required notice to both the employees whose employment is terminated and to the union (if any) who is their bargaining agent.
However, the employer must provide notice to the Minister as soon as reasonably possible after the group termination.
Public Health Emergency Leave
Finally, the Amendments also make changes regarding ancillary matters that relate to public health emergency leave. This form of leave was initially outlined in our Saskatchewan Enacts Public Health Emergency Leave blog.
The Amendments establish that the public health emergency leave is deemed to apply to an employee who is required to provide care and support to an employee's adult family member who is affected by a direction or order of the government of Saskatchewan or an order of the Chief Medical Health Officer.
Further, the Amendments also establish that the opinion of a duly qualified medical practitioner, the government of Saskatchewan, or the Chief Medical Health Officer prevails if there is a conflict of opinion between the employer and the opinion of the practitioner as expressed in an opinion, the provincial government as expressed in an order direction, or the chief medical health officer as expressed in an order.
Lastly, the Amendments confirm that public health emergency leave does not apply to employees who have been informed by their employers in writing that they are necessary to provide critical public health and safety services.
The Amendments form part of the larger attempt by the government of Saskatchewan to balance both the interests of employers and employees that arise from COVID-19. The MLT Aikins labour and employment team will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional updates on legal issues that may impact employers. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team if you require assistance in getting your organization prepared or addressing the operational impacts of COVID-19.
Originally published MLT Aikins, May 2020
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