Navigating coronavirus: COVID-19 updates & resources for foodservice operators

Publié mars 23, 2020

The health and safety of everyone we serve are always mission critical for the restaurant industry. This is just as true now as it was before the emergence of COVID-19.

Restaurants Canada is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 to ensure that our industry has all necessary information associated with this evolving public health situation.

We encourage Canadian foodservice operators to return to this page on a regular basis for the latest information and resources relevant to our industry.

COVID-19 Prevention Measures Tracker

Canadian health authorities have raised their assessment of the risk level associated with COVID-19 in Canada. In response, various measures are being recommended, and in some cases enforced, to support prevention efforts across the country. View our COVID-19 Prevention Measures Tracker for an overview of measures that might impact operations in your region.

Relief Measures To Date Tracker

View our Relief Measures Tracker to get an overview of all the relief measures announced to date across the country that might be relevant to your operations.

Restaurants Canada Updates

March 25, 2020 – Emergency legislation has now been enacted, putting Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan into action. Now included in the federal support package is a new Canada Emergency Response Benefit (replacing the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit).
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March 23, 2020 – Restaurants Canada is calling on all provincial governments to take evictions and property seizures off the table until solutions are developed to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 meet rent obligations.
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March 22, 2020 – All provinces in Western Canada are now allowing alcohol with takeout and delivery orders: On Tuesday, Alberta made a regulatory change to make this possible, then Saskatchewan did the same on Wednesday, and now British Columbia has made this change as well.
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March 20, 2020 – Restaurants Canada has released a statement calling on all levels of government across the country to strengthen relief measures in a number of key areas so that restaurants can survive the unprecedented challenges they are currently facing.
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March 18, 2020 – The federal government has unveiled a COVID-19 Economic Response Plan to provide relief to individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic. The plan responds to a number of areas of need raised by Restaurants Canada.
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March 17, 2020 – Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency in Ontario in response to the escalating public health threat posed by COVID-19. Restaurants will be permitted to remain open but will be limited to takeout, including drive-thru, and delivery.
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March 16, 2020 – Restaurants Canada is continuing to monitor responses to the evolving public health situation across the country so that we can provide you with the most relevant information for your operations. Here’s what you need to know right now:

  • Toronto is calling for temporary closure of bars and restaurants
  • Calgary has declared state of local emergency
  • British Columbia is recommending gatherings to be limited to 50 people
  • Ontario to introduce job protections for workers impacted by COVID-19
    Read more

March 15, 2020 – The Quebec and Nova Scotia governments have made announcements in regards to various measures being introduced to support prevention efforts.
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March 13, 2020 – The Canadian government is stepping up efforts to support businesses. In response to ongoing engagement with Restaurants Canada and our industry allies, the federal government is introducing measures to stimulate the economy and support businesses impacted by COVID-19.
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March 11, 2020 – The Canadian government is launching a $1-billion fund to support the domestic and global response to COVID-19.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an illness caused by a coronavirus. Human coronaviruses are common and are typically associated with mild illnesses, similar to the common cold. Health Canada has everything Canadians need to know the facts about COVID-19.

Government Benefits Overview

Employee Benefits Available

Employment Insurance (EI)

EI provides workers with a regular benefit. For most people this will amount to 55 per cent of their average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount of $573 per week for earnings of $54,200. The Government of Canada has taken the following steps to make EI more accessible to workers (including eligible temporary foreign workers) affected by COVID-19:

  • For workers eligible for EI, the one week waiting period has been waived for those who are sick, quarantined, or forced to stay home to care for dependents (as of March 15, 2020). Workers in these circumstances who need the one week waiting period waived should call this dedicated number for immediate access to EI benefits: 1-833-381-2725.
  • Employees applying for the Employment Insurance Sickness Benefit will not be required to provide a medical certificate to access these benefits if the illness is related to COVID-19. Learn More.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

This new benefit provides a taxable benefit of $2,000 a month for up to 4 months to:

  • Workers who must stop working due to COVID19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support.
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
  • Working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures.
  • Workers who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.
  • Wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for EI.

Temporary foreign workers who do not qualify for EI, but who meet any of the above criteria, are also eligible for this benefit.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number. Learn more.

Employer Benefits Available

Extended Work-Sharing Program

Work-Sharing is a program designed to provide income support to employees to help employers avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in business activity. To qualify the employer must establish a 10 to 60 per cent reduction of work. As a response to COVID-19, the Government of Canada has extended the maximum duration of Work-Sharing agreements from 38 to 76 weeks. Additionally, you may now apply for a successive agreement immediately upon the expiration of the previous agreement; the mandatory waiting period has been waived. Learn more about Work-Sharing here.

Supplemental Unemployment Benefit (SUB) Plan

Employers can apply to register a benefit plan to top up earnings of employees who are receiving EI.

Employers can top up employee earnings up to 95 per cent of their regular income. This program allows employers to make additional contributions to employees without impacting their EI benefits. Employers must submit a copy of their SUB plan with a SUB plan registration form to Service Canada. More information is available from Service Canada here.

Wage Subsidies

The Government of Canada’s stimulus package included a wage subsidy to cover 10 per cent of an employer’s remuneration costs for a period of three months. This measure will be available for “small employers,” which includes corporations eligible for the small business deduction. The 10 per cent will be taken from payroll deductions to the CRA, rather than being issued as a cheque. Employers are eligible for up to $1375 per employee to a maximum of $25,000 per employer. Learn more

Access to Credit

The Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) was established on March 13, 2020 to support access to financing for small and medium sized Canadian businesses. This program will provide more than $10 billion in direct lending at market rates to businesses whose access to financing would otherwise be restricted. Businesses seeking BCAP support should apply through their regular financial institution.

Mortgage and Credit Relief

Canada’s largest banks have affirmed that they will provide up to a six-month deferral of mortgage payments for businesses and individuals and the opportunity for relief on other credit products. Exact measures vary by bank and by region. To apply, contact the bank that holds your mortgage or loan directly.

Employer and Employee Responsibility

I am a restaurant owner. Am I required to pay employees if we must temporarily close the business and they are not able to work remotely?

According to Mike MacLellan of CCPartners Lawyers for Employers, you are not required to pay employees unless the employment contract, a binding workplace policy or collective agreement states so. You should advise your employees that they are being temporarily laid off and you should provide them with an ROE as soon as possible coding it as A for a shortage of work. You do not need to set an anticipated return date on the ROE, you can mark it as unknown.

If an employer has a contract, policy or collective agreement that prevents temporary layoffs, a claim for wrongful dismissal may succeed. In the current circumstances an employer could make a persuasive defense that employment was “frustrated”, not terminated. Frustration occurs when an intervening act makes the employment contract impossible to perform. When a contract is frustrated, it is simply ended – not breached.

Can an employer require an employee to accept a reduced wage or fewer hours due to COVID-19?

No. Employees cannot be forced to accept any significant and harmful changes to their employment, including rate of pay, hours of work or the elimination of other normal entitlements such as benefits, commissions, bonuses and allowances. This may constitute constructive dismissal.

Employees may voluntarily agree to a reduction in hours, but this cannot be required. This still constitutes an interruption in earnings and you should issue the employee an ROE for the reduction in earnings. They may then be able to collect EI due to the reduced earnings, but they must report their insurable earnings.

What is the difference between a layoff and termination?

A temporary layoff applies only for a limited period of time, typically without terminating the employment relationship. The employee is generally not entitled to pay during the layoff period. In effect, the employment relationship is paused. A termination is the end of an employee’s contract with a company.  If an employer chooses to terminate an employee they must follow guidelines set out by their provincial employment standards legislation.

Can I require our employees to use up their sick leave and vacation days if we must temporarily close the business during the outbreak?

Employers have the right to determine when an employee takes vacation, but exact rules vary by province. In Ontario, employers have the right to determine when an employee takes vacation unless their contract, policy or collective agreement states otherwise. In Quebec, employees must be advised of their vacation dates at least four weeks in advance.

You cannot require an employee to take sick time or paid lieu time, but you may want to allow employees to access this time if they have it.

Do group benefits usually cover a virus outbreak like this? Can employees claim Short Term Disability benefits?

This depends on the wording of the plan. Most plans require an employee to be “totally disabled” to be eligible for short term disability, as such, if an employee becomes infected, they will likely qualify for short term disability benefits. Read your plan carefully. Most plans are structured to protect against wage loss, so if the business is closed an insurer may not pay out the benefits, because in this case the closure, not the disability, is the reason for the wage loss. Whether a healthy employee will qualify for benefits during a period where the business is closed depends on the language of the insurance plan.

Can we require our employees to advise us if they have COVID-19?

Under normal circumstances an employer is not entitled to diagnostic information if an employee is taking a sick leave. These are not normal circumstances. Mike MacLellan of CCPartners Lawyers for Employers advises his clients to require employees to advise if they have COVID-19. During this outbreak it is reasonable to want to be proactive and keep your workplace safe. Mike adds, “remember that under your applicable health and safety regulations employers always have the responsibility to avoid hazards, and that can include something like an injury or illness. The standard to which employers are held is due diligence and I do think that it’s a feature of due diligence to be requiring employees to disclose either a positive diagnosis or that they have the symptoms and to make sure they’re not coming to work where they could possibly affect coworkers and customers.”

Employers must remember that while their duties include keeping a disease-free workplace through proper due diligence, they should not use the occasion to play doctor or to make assumptions about their employees’ health.

Can we require our employees to advise us if they have travelled to an affected area, or been around someone with COVID-19?

Yes. It is recommended that employers require employees to disclose whether they have travelled internationally or been exposed to COVID-19. The Government of Canada recommends a 14-day self-isolation period following international travel or exposure to COVID-19. Following this isolation, Mike MacLellan of CCPartners Lawyers for Employers recommends allowing the employee to return to work after receiving medical clearance from a doctor or after having been symptom free for 14 days.

Are we allowed to tell the team that one of our employees has contracted COVID-19?

Yes; however it is important to keep medical information private, where possible, while protecting the health and safety of other staff members. Mike MacLellan of CCPartners Lawyers for Employers recommends that you let staff members who have been in close contact with the infected employee know they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 without disclosing the name of the sick employee. These employees should also be directed to self-isolate and to return only when they have remained symptom free for 14 days or when they have clearance from a doctor.

Is an employee who is off work due to COVID-19 entitled to be paid?

No. Unless their contract, policy or collective agreement states otherwise, an employee who is not working is not entitled to receive their regular wages. If an employee is entitled to paid sick leave, they may use it while off work due to illness.

What if an employee refuses work due to fear of contracting COVID-19?

Employees have the right to refuse unsafe work, and an employee cannot be fired for exercising a COVID-19 work refusal if they believe in good faith that they may become infected through their work. If you can absorb the loss of those employees, you should give them an unpaid leave of absence and let them stay away. If the employees are necessary to your operations, you should let them know that they are required to come into work, but you should put all reasonable precautions in place to protect them. If they take the position that it’s an unsafe work assignment, you will need to consult your provincial health and safety legislation for the guidelines and process around an alleged unsafe work refusal.

Can an employer be held responsible if someone in the workplace contracts COVID-19?

Legally speaking, yes. Employers have a duty to keep a hazard free workplace. If an employer is not exercising due diligence or is turning a blind eye, and it results in someone being infected, a case could be prosecuted under Health and Safety legislation or as a civil complaint.

What do I do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

Consult your provincial public health authority. If an employee tests positive, public health will be involved, tracking contacts and issuing orders and directives. Employers, like all members of the public, are expected to facilitate the work of public health authorities at this time. You should ensure that your employee does not come to work.

Employees that have come into close contact with the infected employee should be contacted and advised to go into isolation and get medical advice.

In the time before public health intervenes, employers should seal off any work areas where the employee worked. This may mean sending other employees home and temporarily closing down workplaces.

How should we handle employees who call in sick but will not disclose whether their sickness is COVID-19 related?

Employees should be required to disclose if they have a diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19. If they refuse to do so, the regular standard of having to provide a doctor’s note to substantiate their absence should be upheld. If they do not provide a doctor’s note, it should be treated as a culpable absence.

If a restaurant must shut down as a response to COVID-19, how soon after closure should they issue an ROE?

There is no reason to delay. You should provide your employees with an ROE as soon as possible, coding it as A for a shortage of work. You do not need to set an anticipated return date on the ROE, you can mark it as unknown.

As an employer, am I allowed to apply for EI?

Not unless you have been paying into your EI premiums and have accumulated the insurable earnings required for you to collect EI. If you aren’t eligible for EI, you may be eligible for the Emergency Support Benefit or the Emergency Care Benefit.

Do temporary foreign workers and new arrivals to the country who don’t have enough hours to qualify for EI qualify for the Emergency Support Benefit or the Emergency Care Benefit?

The Emergency Support Benefit and the Emergency Care Benefit are available for people who are not otherwise eligible for EI. These groups should apply to these benefits.

Can employees under the age of 18 qualify for EI?

Can you ask your employees to sign a document attesting that they aren’t sick?

Can we take an employee’s temperature before they enter the workspace?

This is not advised. Ask your employees to disclose if they have any symptoms before they arrive in the workplace. Not all carriers of COVID-19 will present with a fever.

Human Rights Concerns

What are the human rights issues we need to watch out for during this crisis?

Equality, dignity and respect must remain at the centre of our efforts to flatten the curve. Just as we must protect those who are disproportionately impacted, we must also be vigilant and call out the racism and intolerance that often appears in times of stress and uncertainty. We must stand together and support one another.

Workplace policies should be applied consistently between all employees. No employee should be scrutinized more heavily than their coworkers, or put at any additional burden because of a protected ground under the Canadian Human Rights Commission including race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability or a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a recorded suspended.

Under human rights law, employers owe a duty to accommodate their employees for reasons related to these protected grounds. Mike MacLellan of CCPartners Lawyers for Employers recommends that employers be flexible where possible. For example, if an employee in quarantine is able to accomplish their work from home, they should be allowed to do so.

Health & Food Safety

If an employee has been exposed to COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19 and has touched food in the restaurant, what food handling best practices are recommended?

Food that has been touched by someone infected with COVID-19 should be disposed of. When cleaning the restaurant and disposing of food, ensure that you are practicing proper hand hygiene, using PPE as needed (gloves or mask) and properly cleaning contaminated surfaces (common and high-frequency touch point surfaces).

For free Food Handler Personal Hygiene training from Restaurants Canada and Canada Food Safety, click here. It is available to both Restaurants Canada members and non–members

For more information on proper cleaning procedure, please see our partner resources from Diversey.

Can food be donated to reduce waste?

If your restaurant has a COVID-19 positive or exposed employee, it is best not to donate any food. Any opened food (ready-to-eat, prepped or cooked) should not be donated.

If your restaurant, to the best of your knowledge, was not exposed to COVID-19, you may donate packaged, unopened food (it should be sanitized upon arrival by the donee with approved no-rinse sanitizer).

Is there any difference for food safety practices for different types of food (dry vs. frozen)?

Dry foods inside containers in the dry store should be safe. Outer surfaces of refrigerated and frozen food packaging/storage containers should be made safe.

Clean, disinfect and ensure food inside the container is not exposed to the chemicals in the enhanced cleaning protocol. Sanitize all outer surfaces on food packaging that were not handled by a COVID-19 positive/exposed individual with an approved no-rinse sanitizer.

See our Diversey partner resources on how to effectively clean surfaces and proper hand hygiene.

What are the food safety precautions for restaurants temporarily closing?

With a temporary closure that does not have a defined date for reopen, the following procedures are recommended:

  • Dispose any open thawed/prepared/cooked/ready to eat foods immediately
  • Check expiration dates across dry, refrigerated and frozen food storage
  • Ensure all foods are covered, labelled and protected for the lockdown period
  • Ensure climate controls and environment in the facility are food safe (temperature, humidity, cleanliness, pest-proofing)
  • Temperature: 4°C or below in coolers, -18°C or below in freezers and 10-21°C in dry stores
  • Humidity: 55% or lower in dry storage areas
  • Maintain food safe temperatures during lockdown until operations restart

For more information on food safety when temporarily closing, see these downloadable resources from Canada Food Safety Group.

How can an operator ensure their third-party delivery driver is safe? What questions can an operator ask?

As an operator, asking the following questions are essential to ask a third-party delivery driver: do you have the correct bag? Have you had the proper training? Are you in good health or showing any symptoms?

Before asking the driver however, you should ask the provider the following: what precautions are you taking with your drivers to ensure they are safely able to deliver food?

As an operator, you can also provide sanitizer/disinfectant for the interior of the delivery bag before putting food in the bag. If you’re unsure or have any doubt, refuse the delivery with the driver in question and contact the delivery provider. Delivery providers are reluctant to mandate contract delivery drivers due to legality issues, so you as the operator have the responsibility to ensure your product reaches the consumer safely

What are some of the easiest ways to provide tamper-proof packaging?

Tamper-proof packaging should utilize a label that is not easily peeled away and that has a high strength adhesive. Utilize tamper-proof containers, that is, one having indicators or barriers to entry which, if breached or missing, provides visible evidence to consumers that tampering has occurred.

It is also recommended to staple the bag and stamp the order once the delivery driver arrives to pick up the order. Lastly, ensure that delivery drivers have received the proper training and as an operator you are reinforcing expectations of staff and delivery drivers.

If you are using a food/tabletop sanitizer provided by a known large cleaning company, is that a sufficient anti-viral product against COVID?

Health Canada now has a list of approved disinfectants against SARS-CoV-2 and this list is updated daily.

The requirements in general are to use a broad-spectrum virucide (able to kill a hard to kill non-enveloped virus) which would indicate it can kill Norovirus, Rhinovirus or Hepatitis A. Adenovirus and Rotavirus are easier to kill than non-enveloped viruses.

Should restaurants that are still open for takeout or otherwise, switch to only accepting credit cards, and say no to cash?

You can accept and give cash, as long as you don’t touch portals of entry (eyes, nose and mouth) with your hands. You should not touch any food products when you handle cash. The challenge is more so being within six feet of each other during the payment process, which is why you and the customer should not speak, as there are secretions when you talk.

The transmission of the virus is thought to be lower from touching a surface and your face versus having the particle in the air hitting your face from when you are talking to someone. We should not talk when standing close to someone.

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