On December 15, 2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada issued a Level 3 COVID-19 Global travel advisory, which advises Canadians, regardless of their vaccination status, to avoid non-essential travel internationally (Travel Advisory). As noted in Canada's Travel Advice and Advisories - FAQ, a travel advisory is "official Government of Canada information and advice" [emphasis added] and, "The decision to travel is yours alone. Following the Government of Canada's official travel advice will ensure your personal safety and security."
The Travel Advisory notes that due to the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, many foreign governments are implementing strict travel restrictions that might limit transportation options. It also warns that those who travel outside Canada may:
- Have difficulty returning to Canada;
- Have to remain abroad for an indeterminate period;
- Become subject to a local authority's sudden imposition of control measures, including movement restrictions such as lockdowns; or
- Have limited access to timely and appropriate health care should they become ill.
In addition, the FAQ:
- Indicate that if a travel advisory is issued for a destination, it may affect an individual's travel insurance;
- Advise individuals to ensure they understand any terms and conditions in their insurance policies as they relate to Travel Advice and Advisories from the Government of Canada; and
- Direct readers to review information on travel insurance.
According to the FAQ, travel advisories have four risk levels and the Level 3 (Avoid non-essential travel) risk level is the third-highest risk level. In the FAQ, Level 3 is described as:
Avoid non-essential travel
Your safety and security could be at risk. You should think about your need to travel to this country, territory or region based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with the region, and other factors. If you are already there, think about whether you really need to be there. If you do not need to be there, you should think about leaving.
The Travel Advisory also includes recommendations for those who must travel, including for before travel, during travel, and on returning to Canada.
Bottom Line for Employers
Although the Travel Advisory does not have the force of law, employers are encouraged to conduct a risk assessment to determine whether, while it is in place, they should require their employees to avoid non-essential business travel, require any employees currently outside Canada for non-essential business travel to return to Canada as soon as possible, and encourage employees not to engage in non-essential personal international travel. While we recommend employers conduct such a risk assessment for all their employees, it is an especially urgent consideration for employees who are not fully vaccinated and for employees who are fully vaccinated but have not yet received their boosters.
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.