On January 11, 2021, the Government of Canada announced that, retroactive to January 3, 2021, all international travellers who need to quarantine upon return to Canada will not be eligible to receive support from any of the Canada Recovery Benefits (the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB)) for the period of their mandatory quarantine. An exception will be provided for individuals who are exempt from the mandatory quarantine requirements under the Quarantine Act, such as healthcare workers who need to cross the border for work. These individuals will be eligible to apply for recovery benefits upon their return to Canada.
As a result of this announcement, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will update the application process for CRB, CRCB and CRSB. Starting on January 11, 2021, for claims covering a period beginning on or after January 3, 2021, applicants will be required to indicate whether they are self-isolating or in quarantine due to international travel, and the CRA will delay processing their claims.
The government added in their press release, “The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, along with the other recovery benefits, was never intended to incentivize or encourage Canadians to disregard public health advice. Rather, these benefits were put in place to ensure Canadian workers could continue to make ends meet during the pandemic, and that no Canadian would have to make the choice between putting food on the table or going to work sick.”
As of January 7, 2021, air travellers five years of age or older are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result to the airline prior to boarding international flights bound for Canada. Once they arrive, they must:
- Isolate for 14 days if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or if they know they have COVID-19;
- Quarantine for 14 days if they do not have symptoms; and
- Comply with mandatory isolation or quarantine requirements – failure to comply will result in fines, penalties or imprisonment.
To what extent could an employer prevent its employees from taking trips that are considered non-essential?
The general rule is that people still have private lives and employers do not have the right to interfere in what an employee does in his or her personal life. However, employers have a right to set limits to protect the legitimate interests of their business and to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all employees.
Employers have no legitimate reason to prevent employees from personal travel in their spare time. On the other hand, personal travel can have consequences in the workplace if an employee needs to isolate for two weeks, impacting the employee’s ability to access the workplace or perform his or her job (or both).
It is to this extent that the employer has a right of scrutiny, to come and say to the employee before that person leaves for vacation,
“if you have obtained a week’s vacation and you want to take advantage of it to make a non-essential trip outside of Canada, I cannot directly forbid you, but know that if your work performance requires that you be at work physically, following your vacation, do not expect any workplace accommodation to respect mandatory quarantine requirements.”
That said, where an employee is already teleworking 100 percent of the time, there should be no problem since the employee does not have to physically be at the workplace. However, if the employee falls ill from COVID-19 or is unable to return to Canada because he or she is unable to meet the federal government’s re-entry requirements, the warning should still be given in case the employee is unable to resume performing work after the travel outside of Canada.
A good idea is to communicate in writing to employees the travel restrictions, exemptions, mandatory quarantine requirements and advice from the federal government, and also to recommend to employees to refrain from non-essential travel and communicate the possible consequences if they do.