Toronto Employers Take Note: Additional COVID-19 Measures Issued by Toronto Medical Officer of Health Including Reporting Obligations
Date: January 5, 2021
Employers and persons responsible for businesses or organizations which are located in the City of Toronto and are permitted to be open during the current lockdown in Ontario are now subject to additional requirements in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases in the City. The provincial lockdown restrictions are set out in the Rules for Areas in Stage 1 (Rules), a regulation made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.
Effective January 4, 2021, Toronto employers must also follow the measures set out in a Letter of Instruction (Letter) from the Medical Officer of Health for Toronto. The Letter is issued under the authority of the General Compliance provisions of Schedule 1 of the Rules. Those provisions include a requirement that businesses or organizations which are open must comply with “the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.”
The Letter defines “employer” as “a person, company, or organization that employs people or has under its service a person engaged in work.”
Pursuant to the Letter, Toronto employers are obligated to immediately notify Toronto Public Health (TPH) as soon as they become aware of two or more persons who, within a 14-day interval, have tested positive for COVID-19 in connection with the workplace premises. Where this happens, employers must:
- provide a designated contact at the workplace who is available to communicate with TPH and implement any additional measures as may be required
- have updated contact information for all workers which can be provided to TPH upon request, for case management and contact tracing purposes
- notify the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development and any other applicable government authority
- co-operate with infection prevention and control personnel from TPH, which includes allowing them access to the workplace.
The Letter also sets out certain infection prevention measures, which many employers may already have in place. These include providing hand sanitizers and hand-washing facilities in work and rest areas, implementing frequent environmental cleaning in all high-touch areas and conducting or having the property owner or landlord conduct regular reviews of the ventilation systems to ensure they are properly operating.
The Letter reiterates the requirement that workers must maintain a physical distance of two metres in all areas of the workplace. It states that one-way walkways should be installed to reduce physical interactions. Where physical distancing is not possible, physical barriers such as plexiglass must be implemented.
Where workers must drive for work and more than one person must be in the vehicle, the workers must wear face coverings (preferably medical masks) and open the windows of the vehicle while driving.
The Letter also states that employers are to ensure that employees are aware of income replacement benefits or other work-related benefits to which they may be entitled should they need to self-isolate, to encourage reporting of COVID-19 symptoms or contacts.
There are certain exemptions from the application of this Letter, including, among others, licensed child care programs, specified health care providers and schools.
In addition to the above, TPH announced that as of January 7, 2021, workplaces will be grouped into 11 different categories, that include retail settings, farms, and food processing plants. TPH will publish the location of sustained workplace outbreaks on a weekly basis provided that the workplace is sufficiently large to mitigate privacy concerns.
All Toronto employers which are currently open under the lockdown restrictions should immediately review these additional measures to ensure they are in compliance.
Should you require further information, please contact your regular Hicks Morley lawyer.
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