(This is not legal advice and is for informational purposes only)
Updated: January 5, 2021
Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, Toronto Public Health (TPH) issued new measures to curb the spread of infection. Starting January 4, 2021, employers must now:
- Immediately notify TPH if 2 or more people test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days (in connection with the workplace premises);
- Designate a contact person at the workplace to deal with TPH and implement COVID-19 safety protocols;
- Ensure contact information for all workers is available to TPH within 24 hours of request;
- Ensure hand sanitizer and hand-washing facilities are available, and that there is rigorous and frequent environmental cleaning in all high-touch public areas;
- Conduct a regular review of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to ensure they are functioning well;
- Minimize instances of more than one individual travelling together in a vehicle for work. If multiple individuals need to travel in a single vehicle, employers must ensure face coverings are worn in the vehicle and vehicle windows open;
- Ensure a 2-metre physical distancing between workers throughout the workplace in lunchrooms, change rooms and washrooms; and
- Install one-way walkways to reduce close physical interactions and implementing physical barriers, such as plexiglass, when physical distancing is not possible.
The above measures are applicable to most workplaces in the City of Toronto (that are permitted to be open). They are considered a ‘continued Section 7.0.2 Order’ under of the Reopening Ontario Act . As such, any person or company who fails to comply with these new measures is guilty of an offence and if convicted, may face maximum penalties as follows:
- for individuals, a fine up to $100,000 and a term of imprisonment of not more than one year;
- individuals who are directors or officers of a corporation, a fine of not more than $500,000 and a term of imprisonment of not more than one year; and
- for corporation, a fine of not more than $10,000,00
Starting January 7, 2021, TPH will publicly name employers if there are COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace. TPH will publish details of the workplace outbreaks on its website, which will be updated on a weekly basis.
TPH is disclosing workplace outbreak information if there is evidence of sustained transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace; a significant proportion of staff have been involved in the outbreak; significant duration of the outbreak and the approximate time for a positive case to generate a second and third positive case, or cases; and the workplace is large enough that risk of privacy concerns are mitigated.
The information-sharing is meant to enhance worker awareness of COVID-19 spread and incentivize employers to implement appropriate safety measures.
COVID-19: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave Extended
On December 17, 2020, the Government of Ontario amended the O. Reg. 228/20: Infectious Disease Emergency Leave under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), to extend the COVID-19 Period from March 1, 2020 to July 3, 2021.
During this 16-month period, any non-unionized employee who is temporarily laid off, or whose hours or wages are temporarily reduced by the employer because of COVID-19 is deemed to be on a job-protected Infection Disease Emergency Leave (“IDEL”).
Practically speaking, the regulation materially prolongs the period in which employers can temporarily lay off staff or reduce pay and hours without triggering a permanent layoff or constructive dismissal. In other words, employers are shielded from having to pay out costly severance packages that would ordinarily arise under the ESA.
After July 3, 2021, the ordinary rules governing constructive dismissal and temporary layoffs will apply, at which time, the temporary layoff clock resumes.
While the extension buys employers more time and flexibility to make significant staffing changes, it will be important for businesses to plan future resource requirements and ensure there is a clear plan should layoffs and other changes need to become permanent on or after July 3, 2021.
Despite these regulatory protections, note that businesses are not completely immunized from the obligation to provide a severance package in all circumstances. Employees may still have recourse to the courts to claim a severance package under the common law. Further, if an employer initiates such changes for reasons unrelated to COVID-19, the modified rules do not apply.
For more information, contact JPak Employment Lawyers today.