Written by Drew Broughton and Laura Inglis
This is an update to a previous blog from March 28, 2020.
As a response to the increasing risk that the COVID-19 virus poses to Albertans, on March 27, 2020, the Alberta Government made several announcements affecting business, workplace and facility closures, including the immediate closure of certain types of "non-essential businesses." The government has also provided a description of the types of non-essential places of business that are no longer permitted to provide services to the public, and released a list of essential services in the province.
The government has since clarified that "if your business type isn’t specifically listed as prohibited to operate, or if you don’t fall within specific parameters that are stating that you are prohibited to operate according to the restrictions on gatherings and businesses, you are safe to continue operations". Therefore, provided your business is not specifically described as being prohibited from operating, you may continue to operate.
Note that business and services that do continue to operate, either because they are "essential services" or are not otherwise prohibited from doing so, must have proper risk mitigation measures in place, such as sanitation stations and appropriate distancing. Those operating workplaces that have more than 15 workers on a work site must follow all public health guidelines, including physical distancing measures. The government advises employers to:
- self-assess and find alternate ways to organize large group meetings;
- cancel workplace gatherings of 15 or more people in a single space (such as training events);
- employ mitigation strategies to limit risk; and
- continue business continuity planning to prepare critical operations for any potential interruption.
The government has not indicated for how long these measures will be in place.
According to the Alberta Government, the following types of non-essential places of business are no longer permitted to offer or provide services to the public at a location that is accessible to the public:
- any place of business offering or providing non-essential health services (subject to those services deemed urgent);
- any place of business offering or providing personal services (such as hairstyling, tattoos, manicure/pedicure, and cosmetic skin and body treatments);
- any place of business offering or providing wellness services, including but not limited to massage therapy services and reflexology services; and
- any retail store, including a retail store located in a shopping centre, or other similar place of business offering or providing only non-essential goods or services.
The government has indicated that non-essential retail businesses include:
- gift, hobby, antique and specialty stores;
- non-essential health and beauty care providers;
- clothing stores that sell mens’, ladies’ and children’s wear as well as unisex, lingerie and maternity wear, shoes, bridal wear, jewellery and accessories; and
- retail stores that sell luggage, art and framing supplies, computers and gaming equipment, toys, photos, music, books, and sporting goods.
Note that non-essential retail businesses may continue to offer online shopping and curbside pick-up.
Furthermore, the government has provided that no restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, food courts or other food-serving facilities may continue to offer dine-in services of any description. Only take-out, drive thru and food delivery services (e.g., Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats) may be provided.
Essential Services in Alberta
A full list of essential services has been provided on the Government of Alberta website. In particular, the Alberta Government's list of essential services includes a detailed and expansive list of businesses in the "petroleum, natural gas, and coal" industry, such as petroleum product storage, pipeline, terminals, rail transport, road transport; petroleum drilling, extraction, production, servicing, processing, refining, terminal operations, transporting, and retail for use as end-use fuels or feedstocks for chemical manufacturing; and workers necessary for the manufacturing of necessary materials and products for energy.
The list of essential services in Alberta also specifies a number of agricultural and horticultural business that can remain open, such as services and business that farm, harvest, process, manufacture, produce or distribute food, and businesses in the food supply chain such as feed mills and grain elevators.
What This Means for Alberta Businesses
Businesses that are not specifically described by the Alberta Government as being prohibited from operating may continue to operate. If you have questions about whether your business is prohibited from operating in Alberta, we would be happy to talk with you. If your business is prohibited from operating, but you believe that it should be considered an essential service due to the nature of the business, Bennett Jones’ lawyers and senior public policy advisors can assist in making effective representations to the government.
We will provide further updates as they become available, and what it means for Alberta businesses. Members of our firm, including Bennett Jones Employment Services group and senior public policy advisors are available to answer questions you may have with respect to operating as an essential service and the closure of non-essential businesses in Alberta resulting from COVID-19.
In addition, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre for other COVID-19-related materials.