On March 1, 2022, the province of Ontario entered the Roadmap Exit Step pursuant to O. Reg. 363/20: Steps of Reopening under Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 17 (the "ROA"). The following changes came into effect province-wide on March 1, 2022:
- indoor and outdoor capacity limits for all businesses, public gatherings and events were lifted;
- subject to the decisions of individual businesses, proof of vaccination requirements were lifted;
- subject to conditions, industry-specific public health measures were lifted.
Across Ontario, and subject to applicable exemptions, other protective measures including wearing a mask or face covering in indoor public settings and screening continue to be required, at least for the time being. The Government has indicated an intention to lift masking requirements by the end of March 2022, provided that the current public health trajectory continues. We are continuing to monitor for these changes, including whether existing municipal by-laws relating to COVID-19 safety protocols such as masking will also lift at the same time.
In addition, the Government has centralized what advice, recommendations and instructions businesses need to adhere to in connection with COVID-19 vaccination policies. Previously, businesses needed to adhere to the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and those issued by a medical officer of health after consultation with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. In the Roadmap Exit Step, businesses need to operate in compliance with advice, recommendations and instructions issued only by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in connection with:
- requiring the business or organization to establish, implement and ensure compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination policy; and
- setting out the precautions and procedures that the business or organization must include in its COVID-19 vaccination policy.1
Businesses are required to still operate in compliance with any advice, recommendations and instructions issued by a local public official under the ROA before February 25, 2022. However, the Roadmap Exit Step expressly sets out that this requirement does not apply to advice, recommendations and instructions regarding COVID-19 vaccination policies set out above.2 While this does not absolve a workplace of its legitimate objective and legal obligation to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protections of its workers pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it does, however, represent a shift to centralizing the legislative landscape surrounding COVID-19 vaccination policies in workplaces. Our colleagues have discussed the implications of the lifting of provincial vaccine mandates here. We are continuing to monitor these developments and to work with clients to determine what makes the most sense for their business in this period of rapid change.
As businesses navigate this exit from COVID-19 restrictions, it is important to keep in mind not only the provincial regulatory framework imposed by the ROA but also any relevant municipal by-laws and the overarching requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, as there may continue to be some degree of inconsistency between the same, at least in the short term.
1. O. Reg. 364/20: Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step under Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 17, Schedule 4, s. 2(2)(b)-(c).
2. O. Reg. 364/20: Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step under Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, c. 17, Schedule 4, s. 2(3).
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