COVID-19: Pandemic Resource Partner

COVID-19: Pandemic Resource Partner

Date: September 25, 2020

Hicks Morley has the expertise to guide employers through the labour and employment issues involved with return to work and a work-from-home approach.

There will be a “new normal” as employers turn their minds to reopening or ramping up their operations as provinces ease the restrictions placed on them as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unique challenges will now be faced by employers on all fronts: health and safety, human rights and accommodation, privacy and data security, workplace safety and insurance, pension and benefits and more. Hicks Morley can help.

Services

Hicks Morley has the expertise to assist employers in their return-to-work efforts. For example, we can:

  • identify your health and safety obligations, both in terms of ensuring a safe physical workspace and ensuring the health and safety of your employees
  • assist you with obligations relating to statutory leaves
  • review your work-from-home policies
  • advise on benefits issues relating to re-enrolments requirements, waiting periods and insurance and disability coverage
  • guide you through the privacy implications of a positive diagnosis in the workplace and navigate the collection of medical information
  • work with you on various human rights and accommodation issues that may arise
  • and more.

Updates

We are continuously monitoring developments as they occur and are sending communications to our clients with the latest information and impacts on the workplace. Stay up-to-date through your preferred delivery method:

On July 30, 2021, the Ontario government filed a regulation which reveals that when the province exits from Step 3 of its Roadmap to Reopen, most of the existing COVID-19-related restrictions will be lifted. One key exception will be a continuing requirement for indoor masking.

General Rules

Under the Roadmap Exit Step, all businesses and places may open provided that they follow a number of general requirements, including the following:

  • Most notably, there will continue to be a general indoor masking requirement for all businesses and organizations, subject to the same exceptions that are currently in effect.
  • Businesses and organizations will still be required to comply with all applicable laws as well as the recommendations and advice of public health officials on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.
  • There will be an ongoing requirement to operate in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions from a designated health official on screening individuals by, among other things, posting signs at all entrances in a conspicuous location that inform persons on how to screen themselves for COVID-19. Note that the Regulation removes the express requirement to actively screen every person who works at the business or organization before they enter the premises.  
  • Where a mask must be removed by employees of a business or organization for the purpose of consuming drink or food, those persons must be separated by a distance of at least two metres or by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.
  • If a person provides services to individuals who are not able to mask, they are required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment if they are required to come within two metres of the unmasked person and are not separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.
  • Safety plans must be prepared and made available seven days after this requirement first applies to the person responsible for a business or organization, although many businesses and organizations will already have complied with this requirement. The safety plans must contain the prescribed information and be posted in the prescribed manner. Note that at the Roadmap Exit Step, safety plans no longer need to set out plans for cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects, the wearing of personal protective equipment and preventing and controlling crowding.
  • Contact tracing and retention of that information must continue to be done, where currently required.

Specific Rules

Almost all of the specific rules that apply at Step 3 are to be lifted, and the Roadmap Exit Step contains a very limited number of specific rules, including rules that apply to schools, camps for children and cannabis retail stores.  

Schools and private schools within the meaning of the Education Act may open where they operate in accordance with a return to school direction issued by the Ministry of Education and approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. This condition does not apply to First Nations schools. Certain conditions also apply to persons holding a study permit issued under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Day camps and camps that provide supervised overnight accommodation for children may open where they operate in accordance with the applicable COVID-19 safety guidelines produced by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Authorized cannabis retail stores may open if they provide in-person sales or sales through an alternative method.

Going Forward

As noted at the outset, Ontario remains at Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen, and therefore all of the existing restrictions remain in effect. At this time, the province has not announced a firm date when it will enter the Roadmap Exit Step.

Given the nature of the pandemic and the existence of variants within Ontario, it remains possible that the restrictions set out in the Regulation may change before the province exits Step 3. We will continue to monitor all developments of interest to employers, and will provide further updates if changes occur.

Note that no areas are currently at the Roadmap Exit Step, and all areas of the province remain at Step 3 until the government announces otherwise.

The Hicks Morley Advantage

Hicks Morley has been advising employers for almost 50 years. We understand your business and we have the expertise and the depth to assist you in navigating the unique issues relating to COVID-19 and return to work.

As recognized leaders in the areas of employment and labour law, Hicks Morley is well-positioned to assist you in understanding your compliance obligations, developing return to work plans and managing the health and safety of your workforce.