Today Premier Ford announced a framework for re-opening Ontario's economy. He stressed that the framework reflects how businesses will reopen, but it is too soon to determine when that will happen. The framework for determining a timeline contains four factors:

  1. Virus spread and containment: requires consistent two-to-four week decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases.
  2. Health system capacity: including access to ventilators and ongoing availability of PPE.
  3. Public health system capacity: Requires that approximately 90% of new COVID-19 contacts are being reached by local public health officials within one day.
  4. Incident tracking capacity: requires ongoing testing of suspected cases, particularly in vulnerable populations.

Businesses will be reopened in three stages according to the following guidelines:

Stage 1

  • opening select workplaces that can meet current public health guidelines
  • allowing essential gatherings of a limited number of people
  • opening some outdoor spaces
  • continued protections for vulnerable populations

Stage 2

  • opening more workplaces with significant mitigation plans
  • opening more public spaces
  • allowing some larger public gatherings
  • continued protections for vulnerable populations

Stage 3

  • opening all workplaces responsibly
  • relaxing restrictions on public gatherings
  • continued protections for vulnerable populations

The government also committed to providing very clear public health guidance to ensure safety in workplaces as they reopen. The full text of the framework can be found here.

While it is too soon to know when your business will be able to reopen, it is never too soon plan ahead. To that end, employers can:

  • Consider having newly-hired (as opposed to recalled) employees sign valid employment contracts outlining all applicable entitlements and obligations, retaining the right to place the employee on a temporary lay-off, or the flexibility to temporarily reduce hours, change duties or take other actions necessary to cope with future business interruptions;
  • Ensure health and safety policies are updated and responsive to COVID-19 challenges for when business reopens;
  • Prepare to transition employees back to work from declared emergency/infectious disease leaves of absence in accordance with the Employment Standards Act, 2000, or other leaves where applicable; and
  • Prepare to address requests for accommodation from employees who are unable to return to work even when the business reopens.

All of these steps can be taken now to ensure that you are ready for business once emergency measures have been lifted.

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.