Ontario began moving certain public health regions into Stage 3 of its Framework for Reopening on Friday, July 17, with more joining a week later on July 24th.
Stage 3 permits nearly all businesses in the approved regions to re-open, following proper restrictions and protocol. Certain “high-risk places and activities” are not yet permitted to re-open, including buffet-style restaurants, overnight camps, amusement parks, saunas/steam rooms/bath houses, table games at casinos, and dancing at restaurants/bars.
Gatherings at indoor events are limited to a maximum of 50 people, or 100 people at outdoor events, provided that people can adhere to the two-metre social distancing guidelines. It is also recommended that people continue to work from home as much as possible.
Although the province has not yet made masks mandatory indoors, many regional authorities have chosen to do so, including Simcoe Muskoka, York Region and Toronto.
High-risk businesses not yet permitted to reopen which choose to do so may face liability pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.
Businesses that are allowed to reopen are not required to do so. Non-unionized employees on temporary layoff or whose work hours have been temporarily reduced due to COVID-19 are considered to be on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave pursuant to O. Reg. 228/20. This means that, despite the Employment Standards Act limitations on temporary layoff periods, reductions and layoffs related to COVID-19 won’t be deemed to be dismissal until 6 weeks after the emergency order ends. This may not eliminate common law liability; please contact legal counsel if you are concerned about your rights or potential liability with regard to temporary layoffs.
Businesses which do elect to reopen must exercise due diligence in ensuring employees are safe from hazards in the work environment. Employees have the right to refuse work in conditions they reasonably believe will endanger them. It is possible that COVID-19 may constitute reasonable grounds for refusal of work for all but those for whom it is a foreseeable risk reasonably associated with the job (e.g. nurses). If a work refusal is made on these grounds, the appropriate investigation and accommodation must be undertaken by the employer.
If an employer is advised that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 due to exposure at the workplace, or that a claim has been filed with the WSIB, the employer must notify:
- the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within 4 days;
- the workplace Joint Health and Safety Committee or a health and safety representative;
- a trade union (if applicable).
For more information with regard to health and safety best practices in the workplace as Ontario businesses reopen, please see our archived webinars.
For further questions you may have about your rights or potential liability as we enter into Stage 3, please contact Barriston Law.
Jacklyn Tuckey, Associate