On March 9, 2022, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kieran Moore, issued a statement and technical media briefing announcing that the majority of COVID-19 public health and workplace safety measures will be lifted in the coming weeks. Below provides a summary of Ontario's major changes and considerations for employers moving forward.
Capacity limits and proof of vaccination
As of March 1, 2022, Ontario lifted public health and workplace safety measures, including:
- Capacity limits in all indoor public settings; and
- Proof of vaccination requirements.
The Government, however, has made it clear that businesses and organizations may choose to require proof of vaccination upon entry.
Mandatory vaccination-or-test policies
As of March 14, 2022, Ontario lifted public health and workplace safety measures, including the remaining mandatory vaccinate-or-test policies for workers in schools, child-care settings, hospitals and long-term care. Again, the Government noted that these organizations can continue to retain their own policies.
Masking, physical distancing, passive screening and safety plans
On March 21, 2022, Ontario lifted additional public health and workplace safety measures, including:
- Mandatory masking requirements for most settings, with the exception of public transit, long-term care, retirement homes and other health-care settings, shelters, jails and congregate care and living settings, including homes for individuals with developmental disabilities;
- Passive screening requirements for workers and patrons;
- Mandatory COVID-19 Safety Plans; and
- Other COVID-19 regulatory requirements for businesses.
All remaining public health and workplace safety measures and emergency orders
On April 27, 2022, Ontario intends to lift all remaining mask requirements, COVID-19 related public health and workplace safety measures, and emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act (which Ontario has communicated will expire on March 28, 2022).
Considerations for employers
Despite the lifting of emergency orders and mandatory public health and workplace safety measures in Ontario, businesses and organizations will continue to have the authority to maintain their own policies. Additionally, employers in Ontario are reminded that they must continue to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Depending on the circumstances, this may include continuing to:
- Maintain vaccination and screening policies;
- Maintain physical distancing policies;
- Maintain masking policies;
- Maintain a COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan (or at a minimum ensure that their general Health and Safety Policy has been reviewed and updated);
- Implement best sanitation practices as appropriate and required for their sector; and
- Post signage that is relevant to the workplace to promote compliance with provincial and local requirements.
As always, public health and workplace safety measures remain subject to change based on evolving epidemiological conditions. As a result, employers should continue to closely monitor local public health indicators and continue to operate in compliance with the advice, recommendations, and instructions issued by local public health authorities.
For all questions related to employer-side employment law, including advice related to COVID-19 reopening considerations for employers, the Employment, Labour & Equalities Group would be pleased to assist.