Today, the provincial government of Ontario announced the implementation of additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Notable restrictions for employers are as follows:
- extension of the provincial "stay at home" order until at least May 20, 2021;
- increased authority of law enforcement (police and bylaw officers) to stop a vehicle or person to inquire about an individual's reason for leaving his or her residence;
- increased focus by the Ministry of Labour on workplace inspections and enforcement of existing restrictions, including safety protocols within workplaces and ensuring that employees are working remotely if possible;
- restricted interprovincial travel by land between Ontario and its neighboring provinces of Manitoba and Quebec (with associated checkpoints at borders);
- closure of non-essential construction, including construction at shopping malls, hotels and office towers;
- reduced capacity for retail stores permitted to remain open to 25%; and
- closure of outdoor amenities such as golf courses, playgrounds, basketball courts, etc.
Employers that operate essential businesses should consider providing employees with authorization letters stating that the workplace is essential and that the employee must attend at the workplace (i.e. is not able to work remotely), in the event that the employee is stopped while commuting to or from work. Employees should be instructed to carry their identification with them while commuting.
Employers should also revisit their safety plans and COVID polices, practices and protocols, as the Minister of Labour has announced that all workplaces that continue to operate are suitable for inspection (including traditional office environments).
These additional restrictions increased enforcement measures are a forceful reminder to employers to ensure that their organizations are following all required COVID-19 and public health measures, and to revisit their assessment of their practices and policies (including whether remote work for certain employees is possible, rather than preferable).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.