On December 15, 2020, the Quebec government announced additional shutdown measures for the holiday period to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which affect almost all retail businesses in the province. The official governmental order or decree related to retail closures is not yet available at the time of posting. It is possible that the information provided below, which is based solely on the information available on the government's website on the morning of December 22, 2020, differs or omits certain precisions from the official government order once issued.
1. Non-priority commercial enterprises are required to close from December 25, 2020, up to and including January 10, 2021
The Québec government announced that retail stores and personal care and beauty care enterprises that are not considered to be "priority commercial enterprises" will have to close from December 25, 2020, up to and including January 10, 2021. In contrast to the forced shutdown of "non-essential services" that was mandated in the Spring, this round of closures targets "non-priority commercial enterprises", which seems to target any enterprise providing goods or services to the public directly. Therefore, other types of businesses (including, for example, manufacturing plants) are not targeted by these new rules.
These measures reflect the Quebec government's efforts to limit the spread of the virus while protecting, to the extent possible, retail operations. Some of the measures being imposed for this round of closures are summarized below.
The list of businesses considered "priority commercial enterprises" and authorized to continue operations during the shutdown is available here. This list presents notable differences from the round of closures that were mandated in the Spring, and defines not only the types of stores allowed to remain open, but also the type of products some of them will be allowed to sell.
The following priority commercial enterprises are among the categories of stores that are allowed to remain open:
- Hardware stores are authorized to remain open, but only the sale of products required to carry out exterior maintenance, repairs or construction will be authorized. We do not expect the government to issue further guidance with respect to what will be considered "products required to carry out exterior maintenance, repairs or construction".
- Drugstores are authorized to remain open, but only the sale of everyday essentials will be authorized. The government has not yet issued any guidance as to what will be considered to be "everyday essentials".
- Big-box stores and other sales areas offering
customers a wide variety of categories of products, including food,
drugstore, and hardware products are authorized to remain open,
but only the sale of products usually sold in one of the
stores listed below is authorized.
- Grocery stores and other food stores
- Drugstores (everyday essentials only)
- Hardware stores (products required to carry out exterior maintenance, repairs, or construction only)
- Service stations
- Animal feed and supply stores
- Work-related safety and protective equipment stores
- Commercial enterprises that sell products, parts, and other material necessary for transportation and logistics services and vehicle repair or maintenance, including vehicle repair and maintenance centres, but excluding the sale of vehicles
- The sale of toys, clothing, books, electronic devices, decorative items, cookware, and electric household appliances is explicitly not authorized.
- Repair garages, which, in the Spring, were
only authorized to perform repairs on the vehicles of essential
workers, do not currently seem to be subject to the same
- Commercial enterprises that sell products, parts, and other material necessary for transportation and logistics services and vehicle repair or maintenance may remain open, including vehicle repair and maintenance centres, but will not be authorized to sell vehicles.
- It is unclear whether big-box stores and hardware stores that have an auto repair garage in the same establishment will be authorized to continue vehicle repair and maintenance operations.
- Shopping centers may only leave open the traffic areas that ensure access to commercial enterprises that are authorized to remain open.
- Curbside pickup is allowed solely for stores authorized to pursue their operations in respect of the products that they are authorized to sell in store. E-commerce and delivery are authorized.
- Repair and rental services are authorized to continue for retail stores that offer computer and electronic equipment repair services, or stores that offer repair or equipment rental services or sports and outdoor recreation equipment can remain open, but only for such services.
- Professional healthcare services (such as dentists and physiotherapists) may pursue their activities, but beauty care and personal care services (such as hairdressers and spas) must close, except for care necessary for a patient's state of health, such as post-operative or therapeutic follow-up.
The operators of big-box stores, hardware stores and drugstores are responsible for ensuring that the necessary measures have been taken to prevent access to and the sale of products they are not authorized to sell. The government has not yet issued any guidance as to what steps will be sufficient for the operators of big-box stores, hardware stores, and drugstores to take in order to prevent access to non-authorized products, and who will have the final say on which items are or are not authorized for sale.
The commercial enterprises that are allowed to remain open must continue to respect all COVID measures that are already in place. For more information on these rules, you can check out our previous blog post on the topic here. Failure to adhere to the rules puts retailers at risk of significant fines. During press conferences, the Quebec government announced that inspections will be increased.
2. Mandatory work-from-home for office workers from December 17, 2020 up to and including January 10, 2021
On December 15, 2020, the Quebec government also announced that between December 17, 2020, up to and including January 10, 2021, all employees who perform administrative tasks or do office work would be required to do work from home, unless their physical presence is deemed to be essential for the business of the employer. The government explained that what is "essential" would be left up to the discretion of the employer. However, we note that employers will want to interpret this notion restrictively to ensure ongoing compliance with governmental orders.
Ministerial Order 2020-105 was published on December 17, 2020 and reads as follows with regards to the work from home rule:
"THAT all the employees of enterprises, organizations or bodies of the public administration who perform administrative duties or office work continue to do so by teleworking, from their private residence or its equivalent, except employees whose presence is essential to maintaining the business of the enterprise, organization or body"
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For more information on employment-related information, please visit our McCarthy Tétrault Employer Advisor Blog or reach out to any member of our National Labour & Employment Team.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.