On January 3rd, 2022, the Ontario government announced that, in response to the dangers of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the province is temporarily moving back into a modified Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen. This is effective Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 12:01 a.m., and will last for at least 21 days, subject to trends in public health and health system indicators. These measures continue to affect Ontario’s employers, and include:

  • Reducing social gathering limits to five people indoors and ten people outdoors.
  • Limiting capacity at organized public events to five people indoors.
  • Requiring businesses and organizations to ensure employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.
  • Retail settings, including shopping malls, permitted at 50 per cent capacity.
  • Personal care services permitted at 50 per cent capacity and other restrictions. Saunas, steam rooms, and oxygen bars closed.
  • Closing indoor meeting and event spaces with limited exceptions but permitting outdoor spaces to remain open with restrictions.
  • Closing indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments. Outdoor dining with restrictions, takeout, drive through and delivery is permitted.
  • Restricting the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. and the consumption of alcohol on business premises or settings after 11 p.m., with delivery and takeout, grocery/convenience stores and other liquor stores exempted.
  • Closing indoor concert venues, theatres, and cinemas. Rehearsals and recorded performances are permitted with restrictions.
  • Closing museums, galleries, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions, amusement parks and waterparks, tour and guide services and fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals. Outdoor establishments permitted to open with restrictions and with spectator occupancy, where applicable, limited to 50 per cent capacity.
  • All publicly funded and private schools will move to remote learning starting January 5 until at least January 17, subject to public health trends and operational considerations.

The official announcement, along with an overview of restrictions can be found here. The modified regulation with the full list of mandatory health and workplace safety measures can be found here.

Employers should carefully review the new requirements and apply them to their business as necessary. For example, all employees must perform remote work if possible. If attendance at the workplace is legally permissible, stringent safety protocols must continue to be applied and, if possible, meetings should be held via phone or video call instead of in person. Additionally, employers should take this opportunity to review and update their COVID-19 occupational health and safety procedures to ensure that they are taking all reasonable measures to protect workers from COVID-19 in light of the unprecedented threat from the Omicron variant.

Employers should continue to pay close attention to the latest public health restrictions and guidance to understand how they affect their business. If you have any questions about what the current restrictions mean for your business, please contact our team.