Ontario employers who are planning for an eventual return to work have been keeping a close eye on the province’s COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool (Tool). The Tool directs Ontarians to self-isolate in certain circumstances. This is important because it relates to employers’ Occupational Health and Safety Act duties and their duty to provide statutorily-protected leaves under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
On May 19, 2020, the Ontario government filed five Orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA) which extend the existing Orders and which amend some Orders to further ease the provincial restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 declared emergency.
As governments start lifting orders and directives made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (or similar legislation in other jurisdictions), it is understandable that employers and employees alike are anxious to return to their ‘pre-COVID-19 normal’. However, in order to ensure a successful return to work during the largest pandemic in modern history, it is crucial that employers turn their minds to the unique labour and employment issues created by COVID-19 and reopen with a solid return to work plan in place.
As provinces begin to roll out reopening plans for non-essential businesses, the logistical challenges of implementing social distancing in some workplaces mean that many employees will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. As companies consider which employees will be asked to return to the workplace, and when, the legal considerations and risks associated with work from home arrangements should be taken into account.
On May 14, 2020, the Ontario government announced that certain workplaces will be able to resume operations beginning May 19, 2020, signalling the start of Stage 1 of the second phase of the province’s reopening strategy, “A Framework for Reopening our Province” (Stage 1). The government also announced additional seasonal services and activities that may open May 16, 2020.
In this FTR Now: Province allows businesses to reopen; Ontario announces workplace health and safety guidance; Ontario expands the list of essential workers eligible to receive free emergency child care; Further amendments to the Employment Insurance Act and New Canada Emergency Student Benefit; and more!
Health officials in Canada have stated that the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains very low. That said, in recent weeks the virus has been top of mind for many, including employers. In this FTR Now, we discuss workplace pandemic planning and operational issues employers should be anticipating in the unlikely event of an outbreak.