Littler

On April 20, 2021, Peel Public Health (Peel) and the City of Toronto Public Health (Toronto) announced they would be issuing Orders directing business closures in certain circumstances.  These Orders, which have now been issued and are in effect, are considered necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 variants, protect the healthcare system, and save lives.  They will remain in effect whenever Peel and Toronto are in the Shutdown or Grey-Lockdown zones of the province’s COVID-19 Response Framework.  Peel (which includes the cities of Mississauga and Brampton and the town of Caledon) and Toronto are currently subject to Ontario’s province-wide stay-at-home order.

The following provides more details about the recent closures.

PEEL

As noted above, on April 20, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health in Peel issued an announcement regarding the need for additional closures.  Later that day, the Associate Medical Officer of Health of Peel Public Health issued a Section 22 Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA), effective April 23, 2021.  Together, the announcement and the Order include directives on:

Business Closures, or Shift or Work Area Mass Dismissals

A full workplace premises closure, or a shift or work area mass dismissal, must be implemented for a 10-calendar-day period (or as specified by Peel Public Health), when a workplace premises has five or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases within a 14-calendar-day period, and where:

  • The cases could reasonably have acquired their infection in the workplace premises, or
  • No obvious source of infection has been identified outside the workplace premises, or
  • Upon notification by Peel Public Health.

In its pre-Order announcement, Peel indicated that Day 1 of the closure is the day after the business is notified that it must close. 

Other significant interventions

Peel may in its judgement require, by notice in writing, other significant interventions:

  • Based on the criteria for a full workplace premises closure or a shift or work area mass dismissal, or
  • Based on an alternative set of criteria, where it deems such interventions necessary to address circumstances at the premises of a specific workplace.

Verbal notice as an initial step

Peel may give notice verbally as an initial step to implement a closure or shift or work area mass dismissal or other significant intervention of a workplace premises and follow up with a notice in writing when possible.

Exemptions from the Full Closure Requirement

The following workplace premises are exempt from the full closure requirement:

  • Schools/childcare;
  • Pharmacies;
  • Healthcare facilities, including vaccination clinics;
  • Shelters;
  • First responder emergency services such as fire, paramedics, police and their communication services;
  • Critical infrastructure such as water/wastewater treatment facilities, utilities, telecommunications and IT, transportation, energy;
  • Government services;
  • Services required to maintain the health of animals; and
  • Other workplace premises exempted from closure by Peel Public Health.

Temporary Access to a Closed Workplace

Unless otherwise prohibited by any applicable law, temporary access to a closed workplace is permitted to:

  • Perform work at the place of business in order to comply with any applicable law;
  • Allow for inspections, maintenance and repairs to be carried out at the place of business;
  • Allow for security services to be provided at the place of business; and
  • Attend at the place of business temporarily (a) to deal with other critical matters relating to the closure or reopening of the place of business, if the critical matters cannot be attended to remotely; or (b) to access materials, goods or supplies that may be necessary for the business to be operated remotely.

Remote Work

Businesses may operate remotely. 

Paid Leave

In its pre-Order announcement, Peel strongly recommended that, in the absence of legislated paid sick days, employers directed to close under the Order provide paid leave for affected employees and consider operating virtually as much as possible.

Instructions Communicated to Workers

The following instructions must be communicated by the owners or occupiers of a workplace premises or persons responsible for a business or organization to all workers impacted by a closure/mass dismissal notification:

  • COVID-19 positive workers, workers who have been identified as a close contact, or workers who are or become symptomatic must self-isolate as set out in the Order of Peel’s Medical Officer of Health dated February 24, 2021.
  • Workers of a workplace premises under closure notice who are not symptomatic must self-isolate for a period of 10 calendar days or for such time as the workplace premises is closed.
  • Workers of a closed workplace premises must not work in another workplace during their period of isolation.
  • Symptomatic workers should be tested as soon as possible from the date of onset of symptoms.
  • Workers who test positive for COVID-19 should notify their employer immediately.
  • Asymptomatic workers are encouraged to seek testing.

All workers impacted by a closure/mass dismissal must follow these instructions. 

Reopening the Workplace and Worker’s Return to Work

Testing is not required to re-open the workplace premises or for a worker to return to work if they are asymptomatic.

Closure Notice 

Owners, operators or persons responsible for a workplace premises that has been closed by notice under the Order must post the notice at the entrance in a manner that is conspicuous to the public in a form provided by Peel Public Health indicating the workplace premises is closed.

Fines for Failure to Comply

Individuals and corporations that fail to comply with the Order may face a fine of up to $5,000, and up to $25,000, respectively, for every day or part of each day the offence occurs or continues.

Publication of Names of Affected Businesses

The pre-Order announcement indicated that the names of all affected businesses will be published on Peel’s website while they are closed.  The list will be published once the first affected businesses are notified. 

TORONTO

On April 20, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health issued an announcement about the need for closures.  On April 22, 2021, the Medical Officer of Health of Toronto issued a Section 22 Order under the HPPA, effective April 23, 2021.  The Order includes directives on, among other things:

Business Closures, or Shift or Work Area Mass Dismissals

When there have been five or more confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases for individuals who have attended a workplace within a 14-calendar-day period, or based on evidence of transmission other than there having been five or more confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases for individuals who have attended a workplace within a 14-calendar-day period, Toronto Public Health may require: 

  • Full workplace closure to immediately occur and continue for a minimum period of 10 calendar days; or
  • Partial workplace closure or shift or work area mass dismissal to immediately occur and continue for a minimum period of 10 calendar days; or
  • Other significant interventions necessary to address circumstances at a specific workplace.

Exemptions from the Full Closure Requirement

The following workplace premises are exempt from the full closure requirement:

  • First responder emergency services such as fire, paramedics, police and their communication services;
  • Shelters;
  • Critical infrastructure such as water/wastewater treatment facilities, utilities, telecommunications and IT, transportation, energy;
  • Public-facing or other critical government services;
  • Services required to maintain the health of animals; and
  • Other workplaces as determined by Toronto Public Health for reasons of health, safety or otherwise where in the public interest.

Signage

Owners, operators and occupiers of a workplace that has been fully closed must post signage in a form provided by Toronto Public Health, in a conspicuous location at all entrances to the workplace, for the duration of the closure, indicating the workplace is closed.

Temporary Access to a Closed Workplace

Temporary access to a closed workplace is authorized, unless otherwise prohibited by any applicable law, for the purposes of:

  • Performing work at the workplace in order to comply with any applicable law;
  • Allowing for inspections, maintenance and repairs to be carried out at the workplace;
  • Allowing for security services to be provided at the workplace; and
  • Attending at the workplace temporarily (a) to deal with other critical matters relating to the closure of the workplace, if the critical matters cannot be attended to remotely; or (b) to access materials, goods or supplies that may be necessary for the business or organization to be operated remotely.

Remote Operation

Businesses or organizations are not precluded from operating remotely, without workers or other individuals attending at the workplace.

Contact Tracing and Identification of Workers Who Need to Isolate

Owners, operators and occupiers of a workplace must follow all Toronto Public Health instructions pertaining to contact tracing and identifying workers who need to isolate, including ensuring that any instructions specified by Toronto Public Health are communicated to workers.

Self-isolation of Workers

If a workplace closure, or shift or work area mass dismissal is required, all workers identified by Toronto Public Health, or by an owner or operator or occupier of a workplace following Toronto Public Health instructions, must self-isolate as follows:

  • Workers covered by the Isolation Class Order (which may be found here), as required by the Isolation Class Order;
  • Asymptomatic workers not covered by the Isolation Class Order, for a minimum period of 10 calendar days.

Fines for Failure to Comply

Individuals and corporations that fail to comply with the Order may face a fine of up to $5,000, and up to $25,000, respectively, for every day or part of each day the offence occurs or continues, or should a ticket be issued to them, to a fine in the amount of $750. 

Bottom Line for Employers

Employers in Peel and Toronto are encouraged to become familiar with the Orders that pertain to their respective regions, ensure their compliance if they are directed to close their businesses, and consult with experienced employment counsel to ask any related questions they may have.

×