Public health emergency in the Yukon: What it means for your workplace

3 minute read
20 March 2020


On March 18, 2020, Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon's Chief Medical Officer of Health, declared a public health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Dr. Hanley, in pursuing this precautionary measure, stated that the "Yukon has no confirmed cases at this time, but the threat is real and COVID-19 in the North is inevitable."

How can this happen?

The Yukon Government's ability to declare a public health emergency derives from the Public Health and Safety Act, the purpose of which is to prevent and to protect against threats to public health and safety.

How can this affect employers?

The Yukon Government's declaration comes with the following public health measures aimed at protecting Yukoners and limiting the spread of COVID-19:

  • suspending classes at Yukon public schools until at least April 15, 2020;
  • closing all public indoor recreational facilities until further notice;
  • closing all three of Yukon's hospitals to visitors (with limited exceptions); and
  • closing all public libraries until further notice.

We need employees to work longer hours as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. What should we do?

In certain circumstances, an employer can require employees to work longer hours as well as more often than the normal limits set out in Yukon's Employment Standards Act:

  • in the event of an emergency, an employer need only provide employees with 6 consecutive hours off between shifts, rather than the standard minimum rest period of 8 consecutive hours;
  • an employer can reduce an employee's rest period from 8 consecutive hours to 6 consecutive hours where the Director of Employment Standards determines that 8 consecutive hours of rest between shifts would impose on the employer an unreasonable hardship due to specific circumstances surrounding a specific project or piece of work; and
  • in the event of an emergency, an employer need not provide employees with reasonable advance notice that they will work overtime

To learn more about workplace policies on communicable illnesses and handling COVID-19 in your workplace, please contact a member of Gowling WLG's Employment, Labour & Equalities Group.

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