Q & As for Retailers on COVID-19

Below are answers to our members’ most frequently asked questions concerning ways to work through COVID-19 and its operational challenges and implications. We update these questions & answers daily as new information becomes available. You can search questions below with the most recently updated appearing first or switch tabs to view by category.

  • Should I apply for business interruption insurance coverage due to effects of COVID-19 on my retail store(s)?

    Yes, you should apply if your stores are closed or have otherwise been significantly affected by COVID-19. For example, even if an anchor tenant in your shopping centre has closed due to COVID-19 and it affects you, apply. Recent case law is evolving on insurance coverage in this area. It is wise to give your insurance company notice now by applying for coverage, so as not to preclude yourself unintentionally from potential benefits later, even if you anticipate a denial of coverage at this time.

  • What are a retailer’s rights to deny entry to someone refusing to wear a mask?

    • Laws vary from province to province. On a broad basis, retailers are required to make best efforts to ensure that people are wearing a mask when entering a retail environment. In Quebec specifically it is prohibited for a retailer to allow a person into the store who is not wearing a face covering – law enforcement is to be contacted if there is a problem. 
    • Retailers are not required to deny access to someone refusing to wear a mask.
    • Retailers can control entry into their premises in a way that is reasonable and not discriminatory.
    • In addition to legal obligations, public relations and customer relations considerations should be thought through.

  • What do I do if I am asked to share someone’s health information with a public health authority to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic?

    Retailers may receive requests from other organizations to share information that would identify an individual. Few circumstances legally require a private company to share someone’s health information with the government.

    Before you share any information, verify whether the organization, e.g. a health authority, has a legal basis for requesting it, or if they are just asking you to cooperate.

    If you do share a person’s information, assess the request carefully. Taking care what information you release, why, and to whom will help you reduce regulatory, litigation and reputational risk.

    Whether you are legally required to share someone’s personal information or not, documenting how you analyzed privacy considerations in the process of deciding to share that information would be wise. Privacy principles such as accountability, transparency, consent and limiting data collection and sharing still apply. View more legal information

  • I am receiving CERB payments but am worried I might have to pay them back. What do I have to look out for?

    There are several circumstances in which individuals may have to pay back their CERB payments. These include:

    • If you return to work earlier than you expected, or you receive retroactive pay from your employer.
      • Mainly, if your employer is paying you by receiving the federal Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), you are not supposed to receive the CERB for the same time period.
    • If you applied for the CERB but later realized you were not eligible.
    • If you received a payment from both Service Canada and the CRA for the same period.  

    The Canada Revenue Agency is encouraging people who need to repay their CERB to do so by December 31, 2020. View more information.

  • What is EI Work-Share?

    EI Work-Share is a program to help employers and employees through tough times by allowing employers to have staff on reduced hours while the staff (there must be a minimum of 2 employees in a work share unit) are supported through the EI framework. EI Work-Share is based on an agreement between employees, employers and Service Canada. The maximum length of this form of support (i.e. of EI Work-Share agreements under COVID-19 special measures) has been doubled to over a year (76 weeks).

  • What is being done to ensure that where there may be product shortages, e.g. for hand sanitizer, alternative brands can be sourced?

    Governments across the country are working with local manufacturers, food producers and distilleries who have capabilities to produce these goods to do so in a manner that is approved by Canadian health standards so that retailers can have stocked shelves and that our supply chains remain strong.

    We continue to remind customers to only buy what they need.  This is especially important since people who purchase items in unnecessarily large quantities cause shelves to be emptied much more quickly and add pressure to already stressed eCommerce systems.

  • It’s hard to find PPE (personal protective equipment). Where can I find items like hand sanitizer and masks?

    RCC has a Retail Supplier Directory and will be continually adding more PPE suppliers.

    Some regions have set up provincial PPE supplier directories:

  • What kind of support programs will be available once the CERB runs out?

    The federal government has created four new programs to replace the CERB. These include a revised form of Employment Insurance (EI), the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit. See RCC’s guide to new income support programs.

  • What is the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)?

    CERB is a specific COVID-19 income-support benefit for individuals. It provides a maximum of 28 weeks of $500/week payments covering part of 2020 and has now ended. View more information.

  • What if, as a tenant, I cannot afford to pay my 25% of the rent under CECRA?

    Alternate federal relief programs exist to help tenants who may not be able to pay their 25% portion of rent. These include the Canada Emergency Business Account interest-free loan of up to $40,000, 25% of which is forgivable if the balance is repaid on or before December 31, 2022.  View more information

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