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New restrictions for Ontario employers as COVID-19 cases rise

The Ontario government has introduced tighter restrictions on businesses in light of an increase in COVID-19 cases. Businesses must now ensure that all persons in the indoor area of the premises of a business wear a mask or face covering that covers the mouth, nose, and chin. Exemptions are limited, and include children younger than two and individuals with a medical condition inhibiting their ability to wear a face covering. Employees are also not required to wear face coverings in areas of the business which are not accessible to the public, so long as a physical distance of at least two metres is maintained.

As mentioned in Khadeeja’s recent blog post, employers are now required to conduct daily screening procedures of all workers and essential visitors for COVID-19 related symptoms before entering the workplace.

Additional measures will be taken in Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa as a result of higher transmission rates in those regions. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other food and drink establishments must limit capacity to the amount of customers that can maintain physical distancing of at least two meters, to a maximum of 100 customers. Group exercise classes at gyms and other fitness facilities will be limited to 10 people, with the total number of people attending those facilities limited to 50. Banquet halls and meeting and event facilities must limit customers to six people per table and 50 people per facility. Employers should take these changes into consideration as they plan for year-end events and holiday celebrations. As the situation evolves, the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health experts will continue to advise if and when public health measures or restrictions should be adjusted.

In light of these changes, employers must remain flexible in adopting and implementing COVID-19 related policies. As during the first wave of COVID-19, employers are recommended to take the following precautions:

  • communicating new restrictions to employees on a timely basis
  • disinfecting workplace surfaces and objects, particularly frequently used objects
  • ensuring employees have access to proper sanitary products (e.g. wipes and disinfectants) to maintain sanitary workstations
  • limiting the number of employees allowed in common areas such as kitchens, washrooms, and meeting rooms
  • positioning employees significantly more than 2 metres apart
  • encouraging communication via phone, videoconferencing, and email and avoiding face-to-face conversation unless necessary
  • limiting the number of people in the workplace by allowing those who are able to continue working from home
  • minimizing contact by having customers pay by credit card or e-transfer
  • providing personal protective equipment where distancing is not possible
  • ensuring the local public health unit is contacted if someone is exposed
  • planning ahead with respect to year-end events, particularly with respect to holiday gatherings
  • supporting employees with symptoms to self-isolate.

With proper precautions, we can save lives and reduce the chance of a lockdown.