COVID-19 CANADIAN REGULATORY CHANGES
Here’s a summary of changes to Canadian Federal and Provincial EHS Regulations in response to COVID-19
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Overview of the Regulatory Changes
This summarizes a series of Environmental & OHS orders and amendments issued by the Canadian Government to ease the pressure on industry during the Covid-19 pandemic, at both the federal and provincial levels. The main takeaways are:
- ENVIRONMENTAL: The changes relax and extend reporting environmental requirements in sectors dealing with air quality, greenhouse gases and in Ontario soil management and records of site condition. Also included are reductions in the frequency of mandatory inspections to accommodate facilities that are dealing with staff cutback and other challenges arising from the pandemic.
- OHS: Amendments have been issued to expanded workers’ rights relating to leave as a result of Covid-19. Some provinces have augmented the Federal regulations by adding details relating to specific situations, such as leave to provide for the care of family members.
Here are quicklinks to the relevant Sections:Environmental Amendments
Ontario Provincial RegulationsOHS Amendments
Air Quality and Greenhouse Gas Reporting
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Environment and Climate Change Canada published an amendment on May 2, 2020, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to provide relief for owners/operators of facilities required to submit annual reports to the federal government on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.
Specifically, reporting on emissions of listed substances to the National Pollutant Release Inventory and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions for the 2019 calendar year has been extended to July 31, 2020.
Alberta Environment and Parks issued a temporary directive under Air Monitoring Directive, which relaxed the requirements on the calibration, cleaning, and reporting relating to continuous air monitoring stations. Specific changes include the following:
- The reduction of calibration and cleaning frequencies from monthly to quarterly for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year;
- A 3-month extension of the due date on reporting for the 2019 calendar, now December 31, 2020;
- A 2-month extension for monthly monitoring summary reports and ambient data. This extension applies until September 30, 2020; and
- The removal of the requirement for immediate reporting on exceedances of the Ambient Air Quality Guidelines until August 31, 2020.
On April 23, 2020, Alberta On April 23, 2020, Alberta Environment and Parks released version 12.1 of the Specified Gas Reporting Standard, which temporarily extended the reporting deadline for the 2019 calendar year to July 31, 2020, due to the State of Public Health Emergency in Alberta.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, British Columba amended The Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulation to provide a 6-month extension on the submission of emission reports and verification statements relating to greenhouse gases.
To provide relief for owners/operators of emitting facilities, Ontario amended the GHG Emissions: Quantification, Reporting, and Verification regulation with the following extensions on reporting:
- The due date for emissions reports for the 2019 calendar year extended to July 31, 2020;
- Reporting for electricity importation extended to October 1, 2020; and
- Verification reports are due October 1, 2020.
On-Site and Excess Soil Management/Records of Site Condition
The Environmental Registry of Ontario posted a notice on June 12, 2020, relating to changes under the On-Site and Excess Soil Management regulation as well as the Records of Site Condition regulation to provide relief due to difficulties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, including the following:
- The new excess soil rules that were set to come into effect on July 1, 2020, now go into effect on January 1, 2021, to provide relief to projects affected by the rules; and
- An exemption to the requirement to file a Record of Site Condition has been provided for the development of temporary health or residential facilities for emergencies, to allow for the rapid construction of emergency facilities.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH & SAFETY AMENDMENTS
Canada Labour Code
The Federal government amended the Canada Labour Code to add Section 239.01 relating to leave due to COVID-19. This section remains in effect until September 30, 2020. The changes provide broad relief for workers affected by COVID-19, both directly and indirectly. Specifically, a worker is entitled to up to 16 weeks’ leave if unable to work due to reasons related to COVID-19. Further, if a worker takes leave for purposes associated with COVID-19, employers must ensure that benefits and seniority continue for the entire period of leave, and employment is considered continuous upon return of the worker.
British Columbia Employment Standards
To provide relief to workers, British Columbia amended the Employment Standards Regulation to include a separate definition for temporary layoff relating to COVID-19, consisting of a layoff beginning before June 1, 2020, of up to 24 weeks in any period of 28 consecutive weeks ending on or before August 30, 2020.
Manitoba Employment Standards
In Manitoba, the Employment Standards Code was amended to expand upon the workers’ rights related to leave due to COVID-19 provided by the federal Labour Code. In addition to the entitled leave under the Canada Labour Code, the Manitoba Employment Standards Code has provided specific allowances for unpaid leave to provide care or support for a family member or as a result of school or child care facility closures. Also, a temporary suspension of the requirement for medical certificates for leave has been implemented.
Ontario Employment Standards
Ontario expanded Section 50.1(1) of the Employment Standards Act, allowing for the entitlement to unpaid leave for a worker affected by a “designated infectious disease” (i.e. COVID-19), including leave to provide care or support for another individual affected by the disease.
Saskatchewan Employment Standards
Saskatchewan amended both The Saskatchewan Employment Act and The Employment Standards Regulations to expand upon specific rights provided to workers and employers affected by COVID-19. Provisions under The Act include:
- Relief for new hires though an exemption of the 13-week minimum employment period if an employee takes leave due to COVID-19;
- The entitlement to public health emergency leave to provide care for a child family member; and
- Entitlement to regular wages and benefits of authorized by their employer to work from home.
Provisions under The Regulations include:
- Provide specific allowances for leave to provide care for a critically ill adult, with the exception of employees providing critical public health and safety services;
- Exemptions for both employees and employers from mandatory notice and payment requirements in the case of a layoff related to a Public Emergency (i.e. COVID-19). If an employer fails to reinstate the employee within 2 weeks following the end of the Public Emergency, the employee is entitled to standard termination pay; and
- The above notice and pay exemptions apply to group (i.e. union) terminations as well, however the employer must notify the Minister of the termination.