On December 17, 2021, a new COVID-19 mandatory order will come into effect that could cause significant problems for mass merchant and grocery retailers as well as quick service restaurants (QSRs) in Newfoundland and Labrador.
A lack of clarification in the order is leading to differing interpretations of how the order applies to RCC members. The order mandates vaccinations, or a valid medical exemption, for everyone employed by or providing service to businesses where proof of vaccination is required. Retail is considered exempt from these rules but pharmacies and businesses where customers sit to eat and drink are included in the mandatory order.
Mass merchant and grocery retailers have multiple departments in the same building and these departments deal with multiple vendors. Under the mandatory order, some departments would be exempt from the order’s rules regarding vaccinations while others would be included. Further complicating the matter is the fact that employees in these retail stores may work in multiple departments and the departments may deal with the same vendors, yet the employees and vendors may be subject to different vaccination rules based on the department in the retail store. In attempts to seek clarification, RCC has received different interpretations of the mandatory order from different senior officials within the provincial government.
The order comes into effect in December but retailers and QSRs have yet to be given clear guidance. As RCC awaits clarity, RCC continues to advocate that the entire retail store of a mass merchant or grocery retailer be treated as exempt from the vaccination rules of the mandatory order. Furthermore, RCC is advocating that it is unreasonable to mandate retailers and quick service restaurants to check vaccinations for vendors who make quick deliveries and pick-ups of products from their place of business. This is a short interaction and should be exempt so as to avoid all of the complications and delays that would be involved in trying to organize and police such a mandate. The existing guidance exempts mass merchant and grocery retail employees from mandatory vaccination while exempting businesses from having to check vendors for proof of vaccination.
Given the lack of clarity from the provincial government, combined with the lack of time leading to December 17, 2021, RCC has called on the provincial government to maintain the status quo.
For questions or more information contact
Director, Government Relations (Atlantic)