On April 7, 2021, in response to a rise in COVID-19 infections, the Ontario government declared a third provincial emergency under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, and has issued a second Stay-at-Home-Order (“Order“), effective Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. The new Order is fundamentally the same as Ontario’s last Stay-at-Home Order, but comes on the heels of the province-wide “emergency brake” which came into effect on April 3, 2021.
Ontario’s new measures affect many Ontario employers. The Order does not amend the list of essential businesses which are permitted to continue operating, but the government will increase inspections and enforcement by health and safety inspectors and provincial offenses officers at essential businesses, particularly in regional hot zones.
See here our discussion regarding Ontario’s last Stay-at-Home Order, which commenced on January 14, 2021. The new Order similarly requires Ontarians to stay at home, leaving only for particular purposes. According to the Order, Ontarians are only permitted to leave their homes for certain reasons, including but not limited to “working or volunteering where the nature of the work or volunteering requires the individual to leave their residence, including when the individual’s employer has determined that the nature of the individual’s work requires attendance at the workplace.”
While this Order is very similar to the Stay-at-Home order implemented earlier this year, we encourage businesses to review the text of the most recent Order and the latest public health measures under the province-wide emergency brake to assess whether their business has been impacted. Businesses that continue to operate must ensure compliance with all public health advice, which includes ensuring employees work from home except where necessary, implementing screening protocols if employees attend the workplace, and ensuring physical distancing and line management.
Businesses should also consider issuing travel letters to employees confirming that the nature of their work requires them to attend their physical workplace.
The government has again announced that it will be increasing its workplace inspection efforts, particularly in high transmission workplaces and in “hot zone” public health regions. All employers should review existing health and safety protocols and make updates as needed to ensure compliance. Businesses are required to provide necessary personal protective equipment to employees’ onsite where social distancing is not possible throughout the workday. Employers with employees exempt from the masking requirement should take steps to ensure physical distancing is practiced at all times.