Amid escalating COVID-19 statistics following the holidays, the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario have both issued updated requirements for employers. The Province has issued a new stay-at-home order effective January 14, 2021, requiring everyone to remain home with exceptions for only essential purposes, such as grocery or pharmacy, health care, exercise, and essential work. Despite allowances for essential work, the Province is also requiring businesses to ensure that any employee that can work from home, does work from home.
Toronto Public Health (“TPH”) has issued new instructions for workplaces along with the stay-at-home order to reduce the spread and transmission of COVID-19, effective immediately. These new instructions revolve around notification requirements, infection prevention, and employee support, in an effort to reduce instances of COVID-19 in the workplace.
New rules surrounding Ontario’s stay-at-home order:
First, employers must immediately notify TPH in the event of two or more positive cases of COVID-19 within a 14-day period in connection with the workplace. Any workplaces that fall into this category will also be required to identify a designated contact person for communication with TPH, provide contact information for all workers within 24 hours upon request, cooperate with TPH, and otherwise comply with their Occupational Health and Safety Act obligations.
Secondly, TPH is introducing more stringent infection prevention measures. This includes increased hand sanitizing and washing stations in the workplace; rigorous and frequent cleaning requirements in high-touch and public areas; HVAC maintenance and inspection; minimizing two or more people in the same vehicle; ensuring physical distancing of 2 meters within the workplace and installing physical barriers where physical distancing is not possible.
Finally, the City of Toronto urges employers to support workers by encouraging reporting and educating employees on income replacement and workplace benefits they may be entitled to in relation to COVID-19 absences.
These orders are made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. Due to governing sector-specific requirements, these new measures will not be applicable to certain licensed childcare programs, health care providers and entities, public schools, private schools, and school boards.
To better understand your privacy rights and explore the viability of a claim during these unprecedented times, we encourage employees to seek legal advice. We at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.