On January 6, 2021, the Québec government announced new COVID-19 restrictions that will take effect from January 9, 2021, through February 8, 2021.
The primary measure, which Premier François Legault described as an “electroshock” to curb the spread of COVID-19, is the imposition of an overnight curfew. The government will enforce an overnight curfew between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. In the wake of similar COVID-19-related lockdown measures in France and Great Britain, Québec will become the first Canadian province to impose such a curfew. Police officers will have the power to intercept individuals found outside during the curfew hours and to issue fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 to those who cannot show a valid reason for breaking curfew.
In addition, regardless of the nature of the business, remote work will be mandatory for individuals who work in offices, unless “their presence [is] necessary to pursue the organization’s activities.” Under the confinement mandate, employers will have to show a compelling need to have employees present at any time in the workplace (for example, production employees are likely to qualify).
According to the government’s announcement, manufacturers and construction companies must reduce their activities “to a minimum to complete commitments.” This is in contrast to what Premier Legault announced during his press conference. Initially, he indicated that manufacturers should limit their production to only what is essential. Given these differing instructions, we will continue to monitor the situation and await the official government decree to be published in order to determine to what extent these new restrictions will impact manufacturers.
Further, the government will extend measures initially announced before the holidays concerning commercial retailers through February 8, 2021. It should be noted that, similar to Ontario, retailers will now be allowed to provide curbside pickup services.
With respect to schools, the government announced that preschool and elementary schools would reopen as planned on January 11, 2021. However, high schools will remain closed until January 18, 2021. Educational childcare services (or daycare centres) will be allowed to remain open, but “[d]rop-in daycare centres remain closed.”
What This Means for Employers
In light of the government’s guidance, employers may want to take the following steps:
Make remote work mandatory, barring a compelling reason not to do so.
Provide letters of “safe passage” to employees who are required to work or travel to work during curfew hours, or work outside their home when remote work is not possible.