At 12:01am on January 5, 2022, Ontario will implement additional COVID-19 public health measures. These restrictions include the closure of certain businesses, capacity limit reductions, and a requirement that employees work from home unless the nature of their work requires otherwise.

Latest Restrictions

In response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Ontario, the Office of the Premier announced on January 3, 2022 that Ontario will move back to a modified version of Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen. These measures will take effect at 12:01am on January 5, 2022 and will remain in force until at least January 26, 2022. Some of the key changes (which are also discussed in our general Ontario COVID-19 blog post) are:

  • businesses and organizations must direct employees to work remotely, unless the nature of the work requires attendance at the workplace;
  • indoor meeting and event spaces must close, with limited exceptions;
  • indoor gatherings are now limited to 5 people and outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people;
  • retail settings, including shopping malls, must continue to limit capacity to 50%;
  • indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food establishments must close;
  • personal care services must reduce to 50% capacity; and
  • indoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas, indoor sport and recreation facilities, museums, galleries, zoos and science centers must close.

In addition to the above, all publicly funded and private schools in Ontario must implement remote learning as of January 5, 2022 until at least January 17, 2022.

Key Employer Takeaways

Ontario's latest public health measures will bring two major changes for employers:

  • First, employers must now direct all employees whose work does not strictly require them to attend the workplace, to work from home (this will include most employees in traditional office environments). Employers that have permitted such employees to attend the workplace must discontinue this practice and update all related procedures, policies, and COVID-19 safety plans for compliance with the latest restrictions.
  • Second, the switch to remote learning will likely result in an uptick in childcare-related accommodation requests. Employers must remember to accommodate employees with household needs related to remote learning and dependent care.

As always, employers must also ensure that they are properly implementing all public health measures, including those listed above. For further detail on the January 5th move to a Modified Step Two, see the full Ontario government press release, posted here, and please contact us with any related questions. Future developments will be posted on this blog.

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.