In its latest measure to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, on March 23, 2020, the Ontario government ordered at-risk workplaces to close down, effective 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. A copy of the government’s press release is available here. Note that the government order requires “workplaces” (physical premises)—not “businesses”—to close.

What does this mean for your business?

What is an essential workplace?

In its press release, the government states that essential workplaces include, but are not limited to, grocery stores and pharmacies, telecommunications and IT infrastructure providers, and businesses that support power generation, natural gas distribution and clean drinking water.

A complete list of the essential workplaces is available here.

Essential workplaces will be able to keep their physical premises open; however, the government has asked that these businesses put into place any and all measures to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees on the front-lines.

When does this Order take effect?

Non-essential businesses are ordered to close their physical premises by 11:59 p.m. on March 24, 2020.

How long will this Order remain in effect?

The government has advised that this closure will be in effect for 14 days with the possibility of extending this Order as the situation evolves.

My business is not on the list, what happens if I stay open?

The government press release states that this Order will not preclude the provision of work and services by entities not on the list, either online, by telephone or by mail/delivery. That said, the business’ physical premises must remain closed. Work-from-home arrangements are permitted.

Moreover, as previously announced, individuals and corporations not in compliance with this Order will be subject to penalty. We note that the Provincial Offences Act has been updated to include three offences to be enforced by police:

  • Fail to comply with an order made during a declared emergency;
  • Obstruct any person exercising a power in accordance with an order made during a declared emergency; and
  • Obstruct any person performing a duty in accordance with an order made during a declared emergency.