Restaurants Canada’s Ongoing Responses to COVID-19

Restaurants Canada’s Ongoing Responses to COVID-19

Notes and Comments from Restaurants Canada Podcast

Since the inception of the COVID-19 crisis in Canada, Restaurants Canada has provided resources and guidance to its members through a variety of platforms. Most recently, the organization has implemented a series of webinars on key topics. As engaged stakeholders, our agency is listening closely and providing a summary, as well as commentary, on our blog.

“We hope that as the situation develops, Restaurants Canada is able to continue these webinars and to unpack and address hard-hitting issues beyond sanitation and hand-washing. The restaurant industry is in great peril, and needs strong leadership in this time of uncertainty” – Sean Beckingham, Partner: Branding & Buzzing.



Webinar 1: Navigating COVID-19, Resources for Foodservice Operators


Key Takeaways:


– Restaurant owners and operators should be empowered to hold 3rd party delivery partners accountable.

– You have the right to refuse giving delivery drivers food if you have reason to believe they have not followed appropriate sanitation practices or if a delivery person does not appear to be in good health

– Consider tamper-proof packaging

– Consider dating and timing all outgoing orders.

It goes without saying that effective hand washing is essential in a restaurant environment, even at the best of time. Operators should be communicating best-practices with their employees, mandating routine hand-washing at set intervals, and identifying and controlling “hot spots” – areas in the restaurant and kitchen of particular concern. Ultimately, the sanitation steps our industry takes during this time should become the new normal.

Canada has one of the highest rates of compliance in food safety in the world. We can be proud of that!

Contact time is essential for sanitizing. Often, to work properly sanitizers need to have 1-minute contact time on a surface. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the instructions and best practices of each product you use in your establishment to ensure they are working properly.

We’ll be keeping you up-to-date with the latest responses from Restaurants Canada, so be sure to bookmark this page.

In the meantime, enjoy this light-hearted hand sanitizer how-to!



Webinar #2: Human Rights & Employment


Human Rights Concerns


Apply your policies consistently among all employees. Be fair, or risk exposure. Race, Creed, Sex, Age cant be used against people.

Employers owe a duty to accommodate their employees on the above. Disability is most likely here, and includes injury or illness. You will need to accommodate to the extent of your ability.

Kinds of Support Right Now

– Employment Insurance.
– Emergency care benefit for those who are out of work taking care of someone
– Emergency Support Benefit (for those who don’t qualify for EI)

Extended work-sharing (whereby employees can work less and still receive EI)
– Complicated, must apply
– 38-week max has been extended to 76
– No waiting period between segments of time
– If you have 40% of your business operating you qualify, less than and you may not

Supplementary Unemployment Benefit Plan allows an employer to TOP UP from EI to 95% of wages (while people are still working)

Wage Subsidies to be pledged to business and employers – details still coming.
Ex. A small business may be able to qualify for a 10% wage refund.

BDC/EDC will allow increased access to credit through special arrangements.

Mortgages Relief via six-month deferrals (if you own your own restaurant and are not a renter).
Contact your lender directly.

Be sure to act quickly and decisively on issuing ROEs and all documentation to any workers.
As an employer, if you haven’t been paying in, you don’t qualify but the new EI (Emergency Support and Emergency care) may apply to you.

Emergency Care applies to children under 18 (not in school/out of daycare).
This probably doesn’t apply as family members qualify even if they are older and need care.

Temporary foreign workers may qualify for Emergency Support Benefit as this is intended for people who don’t qualify for EI.



Questions about Employment and HR


Can we require our employees to self identify if they are sick? Under normal circumstances, no, but you can require it right now. Its a matter of responsibility and due diligence. Employer as a responsibility to avoid hazards. However, employers should not be playing doctor. Since we are not able to require medical notes, you can only really make reasonable inquiries and you still have a requirement to keep info safe.

Find balance between warning other employees who may be around someone infected, and keeping peoples’ information secure.

Can you ask if people have been out of the country? Yes. Public health is advising 14-day isolation, so employees should be following that.

Can an employer be held responsible for an employee contracting in the workspace? Legally, yes. You have a duty to keep a hazard-free workplace. Due diligence is key here. Best efforts are best efforts. Prosecution and civil claims are possible.

If employees refuse to work for fear of contracting, what are recourses? It could be work refusal. Might require an investigation into safety, and if the employers and employees still disagree they would have to get the ministry of labour involved. Case by case analysis is required.

What do I do if an employee tests positive? Consult public health. Make sure the employee leaves and does not come to work. Diligence would require an investigation (who had close contact) and advise getting medical advice. Require all those in contact to isolate.

Is an employee off work bc of COVID entitled to be paid? No — barring contracts or collective agreements. If people are not working they are not entitled to pay. Look into paid vacation, lieu time, etc. Try to help.

Can an employer require an employee to accept fewer hours or reduced wages? Small reductions are ok, substantial ones are not. May constitute constructive dismissal.

Am I laying people off or am I terminating them? Temporary layoffs will constitute a termination (constructive dismissal) however your jurisdiction may differ so check your employment standards. You may have the right to put someone on a temp lay off. Again, contracts and collective agreements may supersede. Most employees will have the right to choose which they prefer.

What if I need to temporarily shut down? It differs from province to province.

Am I required to pay employees if we have to close and we cant work remotely? Because of the non-essential business closure, this is getting complicated. Issue records of employment, document document document. If the government is telling you to do it, you aren’t technically terminating.

Can employees accept lower hours and still take EI? Yes, but results may vary. It’s always a net gain for employees who can do both. ROE must be issued when there is an interruption in earnings, even if it’s just fewer hours.

Can I require employees to use their sick leave and vacation days? Generally, yes. Sick days less so, but you should allow access to those days.

Do Group Benefits cover this? Can employees claim disability? Depends on the language and wording of the plan.

Can we take temperatures of employees? No, or probably not. You can ask them to disclose if they have any symptoms.

Can we announce the employee’s name if they are sick? You have a duty to disclose, but also to protect. You may have to split hairs here. Don’t use names.

Threshold for earnings reduction requiring the issuance of ROE? When in doubt, issue documentation.

How to handle employees who are ill, but might not be COVID sick? Employees should be required to disclose symptoms if they are not coming to work. They can’t just not come to work and not explain why. Standards apply here, despite the lack of need for a doctor’s note.

How to navigate employees wanting you to close, or not wanting to work out of fear? Try to give people an unpaid leave of absence if you can absorb the labour. If not, they may be considered essential in which case you can ask them to come in. Refer to the above question on unsafe environments.

Can we have employees sign documents self-certifying? (ie. I am not feeling symptomatic) Yes, but these may not be admissible.



About Restaurants Canada: The industry association grew out of necessity. During the Second World War, supplies and ingredients were scarce and industry leaders in hospitality came together to create the Canadian Restaurants Association. Eighty years later, Restaurants Canada still advocates as a national voice for the restaurant industry, hosts the Restaurants Canada show annually, provides guidance to its members, and publishes Menu Magazine. Restaurants Canada is headquartered in Toronto and led by a board of directors which includes leaders from across the spectrum of the industry. The organization works with all levels of government in Canada to address issues related to food and nutrition, alcohol and cannabis, labour, taxes, and the environmental impact of the restaurant industry. For more about Restaurants Canada, click here.

Restaurants Canada’s Response to COVID-19, click here.