Our Essential Services team in Calgary presents an overview of the steps Alberta has taken in response to COVID-19 and the potential impacts to your business.

We invite you to contact a member of Gowling WLG's Alberta Essential Services Team, Zafar Jaffer and/or Krista Schofer if you have questions regarding the impact that this will have on your business, including questions regarding terminations, layoffs and leaves.

Part 1

Part one of the on-demand webinar provides an overview of the current framework in Alberta with respect to essential and non-essential services. We note that the content of this webinar is subject to change as per new information that may be provided by the Government of Alberta from time to time.  


Hi everyone.  My name is Nichole Mirwaldt and I am an Associate in Gowling WLG's Calgary office and a member of our recently formed Essential Services team in Alberta.  Over the past few weeks, we have seen unprecedented steps taken by various levels of government in Canada and throughout the world, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In part one of this webinar, we will be providing an overview of the orders of the Alberta government has made regarding the operations of businesses during this time.  In the second part of this webinar, we will provide an overview of the support that is available for businesses.

What orders have been made regarding the operations of business?

  • A public health emergency was declared in Alberta on March 17, 2020. The order is in effect for 90 days unless terminated prior to its expiry or if it is extended. This order gives the Chief Medical Officer the power to make further orders in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Initially the government ordered that Albertans were prohibited from accessing recreational and entertainment facilities including gyms, swimming pools, libraries and casinos.
  • On March 27, 2020, the Alberta Government expanded this list and set out a number of services that the government considers to be non-essential. Further, the government released a list of essential services that are permitted to continue providing services to the public so long as public health orders are followed.
  • On March 27, 2020, the Government ordered that gatherings in an outdoor or indoor location be limited to a maximum of 15 people. All persons must maintain a distance of 2 meters from one another (with the exception of members of the same household that are in an indoor location).

Slide: What is a non-essential service?

As of March 27, 2020, the following types of businesses are no longer permitted to provide services to the public:

  • Personal and cosmetic services.
  • Wellness studios and clinics including massage and reflexology.
  • Non-emergency and non-critical health services including dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, podiatry, chiropractic and optometry services.
  • Some retail stores including clothing and gaming stores, book stores, hobby stores and antique stores. Retail business are permitted to offer online shopping and offer curb-side pickup.
  • Dine-in restaurant services. Restaurants are still permitted to offer takeout and delivery.

The full list of non-essential businesses can be found on the Alberta Governments, Restriction on Gatherings and Businesses Page.

Slide: My business has been deemed non-essential. To what extent can we continue to operate?

  • Non-essential businesses are no longer permitted to offer or provide services to the public at a location that is accessible to the public. If no services are being provided to the public, and the public is not entering the business location, non-essential business can continue operating, and employees can still attend for duties. For example, non-essential business are able to offer online shopping and curb-side pick-up.
  • Non-essential businesses that can continue to operate must observe all public health orders. This means that a non-essential businesses continuing with operations must have less than 15 people at the worksite.  

Slide: My business is not listed as non-essential. Can we continue to operate?

  • If your business has not been specifically listed as prohibited to operate or is not listed on the non-essential business list, you may continue operations with more than 15 workers on a work site so long as you implement risk mitigation strategies and follow public health guidelines.

Slide: What is an essential service?

  • The government of Alberta released a list of essential services on March 27, 2020. The list is expansive and includes a number of industries.
  • We have included the link for you to access the essential services list to check if your business has been deemed essential. If you have questions about whether your business fits within the listed categories, we recommend that you reach out to a member of our essential services team. At the end of this presentation, we have included the contact information for the Alberta team leaders.   
  • The 15 person limit of mass gatherings does not apply to essential services. Essential service workplaces are permitted to continue operations with more than 15 workers at a work site so long as workers and businesses follow all public health guidelines and implement risk mitigation strategies.

Slide: Our business is permitted to continue operating. What measures should we be taking?

  • Businesses must be taking steps to prevent the risk of transmission or infection between co-workers and members of the public by either a co-worker or member of the public. This may include:  
    • Finding alternative ways to organize large group meetings such as online tools
    • Cancelling workplace gatherings of more than 15 people
    • Providing handwashing stations or alcohol based hand-sanitizer
  • Maintain high levels of workplace and worker hygiene.
  • Develop a business continuity plan to prepare critical operations in the case of an interruption.
  • Develop a plan for the businesses response should a worker develops symptoms of COVID-19.

Slide: What are the legal penalties for failure of comply with the orders? 

  • On March 25, 2020, Premier Jason Kenny announced penalties and fines for failure to comply with the public health orders.
  • Peace and police officers can issue tickets against individuals to enforce COVID-19 public health orders (including in relation to failure to self-isolate, mass gatherings). The penalty payable by an individual is $1,000.00.
  • Additionally, courts will have powers to issue fines of up to $100,000 for a first offence and up to $500,000 for a subsequent offence for any person or business that contravenes the Public Health Act or any orders made under the Act.
  • The public can submit complaints to public health inspectors at AHS if there are concerns that an establishment is not following Alberta's public health orders. Public health inspectors are responsible for investigating complaints submitted
  • Public health inspectors have begun issuing orders requiring some businesses to close that have failed to follow public health orders. The Alberta Government introduced a bill on March 31, 2020 that if passed, will implement a fine of a minimum of $100, up to $5,000 for failure to comply with such orders. If passed, this change will be retroactive to March 17, 2020.

This concludes the first part of our webinar on essential services in Alberta.  For an overview of support available to your business at this time, please see our second video.  The Alberta government is releasing new information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic daily.  We expect the Alberta government to monitor the situation closely and provide updates. If necessary, we expect the government to add more businesses to the essential services list.

Some other provincial governments in Canada such as Ontario and Quebec, have provided their own list of essential services.  While these jurisdictions may provide some context for business in Alberta, each province is implementing a plan specific to its own jurisdiction. If you have any questions about how the order is made in Alberta will effect your business, we invite you to contact a member of our essential services team.  The contact for our team leaders, Zafar Jaffer and Krista Schoffer are set out in the slide below.

Part 2

Part two of the on-demand webinar provides Gowling WLG's insights on the current framework in Alberta and additional information to assist individuals and businesses in Alberta.


Hi everyone.  My name is Nichole Mirwaldt.  I'm an Associate in Gowling WLG's Calgary office and I'm a member of our recently formed Essential Services team in Alberta.  This video is part 2 to our webinar on essential services in Alberta. 

In this video, we will provide an overview of the support available to employers during this time and if you would like to see an overview of the orders that have already be made regarding the operations of businesses in Alberta, including the buseinsses that have been deemed non-essential, please see part 1 of this webinar. 

Slide: What Support is there for Businesses during this time?

  • Wage Subsidy
    • The federal government announced that it would implement wage subsidy up to 75% for qualifying businesses in an attempt to keep employees on payroll. To qualify, businesses must show at least 30% reduction in their revenues business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Initially when this subsidy was announced, only small and medium size businesses would be eligible. However, on March 30, 2020, it was announced that any eligible business could apply regardless of size. 
    • The plan will be retroactive from March 15, 2020 and, and the current proposal is for eligible businesses to receive the subsidy for up to 3 months.
    • Prime Minister Trudeau announced that if an employer has means to pay employee wages, including the remaining 25% of their wages, the employer is encouraged to do so.
    • Employers who qualify for the plan are expected to hire back employees who have been previously laid off as a result of COVID-19.
    • There will penalties implemented against employers that take advantage of this plan inappropriately. It is not yet clear what those penalties will look like or how they will be enforced.
    • It is anticipated that further details on this plan will be released this week.
  • Work Sharing Program
    • An alternative to the wage subsidy program is work-sharing.
    • The program is designed to help employers avoid layoffs when there is a temporary reduction in normal levels of the employer's business. It is a three party agreement involving employers, employees and service Canada.
    • Employees in a work sharing program must agree to a reduced schedule of work and share the available work over a specified period of time. A work sharing agreement must be at least 6 consecutive weeks and last up to 26 consecutive weeks.  
    • Employers may reduce employee's schedules by a minimum of 10% (one half day) and a maximum of 60% (three days). Employment Insurance Benefits are provided for eligible employees as income support.
    • To be eligible, employers must have been in business for 1 year, operate year round, be a private business, publicly-held company or a not-for-profit organization, have two or more employees that are full time or part time staff.
  • Impact on Workers Compensation Board payments
    • Small, medium and large private sector employers can defer WCB premium payments until 2021.
      • For small and medium businesses, the government will waive 50% of the 2020 premium when it is due in 2021 for eligible employers. Businesses have less than $10 million or less in insurable earnings in 2020 to be eligible for this waiver
      • Large employers will have their 2020 WCB premium payments deferred until 2021, at which time their premiums will be due.
    • Employers who have already paid WCB premiums in 2020 are eligible for a rebate or credit.
  • Income Tax Flexibility
    • Corporate income tax balances and instalment payments coming are deferred until August 31, 2020 to increase employers' access to cash so they can pay employees, address debts and continue operations.
  • Access to credit
    • The federal government announced the establishment of the Business Credibility Availability Program to help businesses obtain financing during the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
    • Through this program, Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada will provide more than $65 billion in direct lending and other types of financial support at market rates to businesses with viable business models whose access to financing would otherwise be restricted.
    • ATB and other financial institutions have announced financial relief programs for their clients. We recommend contacting your financial institution to inquire about programs they may have in place.

This concludes the second part of our webinar on essential services in Alberta.  If you have any questions about whether your business qualifies for the programs discussed or would like more details on support available to your business during this time, we invite you to contact a member of our essential services team.  We have provided the contact information for our Alberta team leaders, Zafar Jaffer and Krista Schoffer on this slide.

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.