The Ontario government moved the City of Toronto and Peel Region into Stage 2 on June 24, 2020 (joining the other 31 public health regions that entered Stage 2 on June 12, 2020 and June 19, 2020), allowing more businesses and services to open. The public health region of Windsor-Essex joined Stage 2 as of June 25, 2020, with the exceptions of certain areas experiencing outbreaks.
The following services and amenities are permitted to open in Stage 2:
- Outdoor dine-in services at restaurants, bars, and other such establishments, including patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent properties;
- Select person and personal care services with the proper health and safety measures in place, including tattoo parlours, barber shops, hair salons and beauty salons;
- Shopping malls under existing restrictions, including food services reopening for take-out and outdoor dining only;
- Tour guide services, such as bike and walking, bus and boat tours, as well as tasting and tours for wineries, breweries and distilleries;
- Water recreational facilities including outdoor splash pads and wading pools, and all swimming pools;
- Beach access and additional camping at Ontario Park campgrounds;
- Camping at private campgrounds;
- Outdoor-only recreational facilities and training for outdoor team sports, with limits to enable physical distancing;
- Drive-in and/or drive-through venues for theatres, concerts, animal attractions and cultural appreciation, such as art installations;
- Film and television production activities, with limits to enable physical distancing;
- Weddings and funerals, with limits on social gatherings to 10 people; and
- Places of worship, provided physical distancing measures are implemented and attendance is limited to no more than 30 percent of the building’s capacity.
A complete and thorough list of every business and service that is permitted to reopen in Stage 2 can be found here.
As Ontario proceeds to re-open and individuals continue to return to work, it remains the case that many employers face challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- the reluctance of employees to return to work on the basis of childcare or other family related issues and underlying medical conditions,
- the reluctance of employees to commute to work by public transit, and
- concerns regarding safety protocols in the workplace (i.e. available PPE and social distancing practices).
With respect to childcare obligations, childcare centres across the province are transitioning from providing only emergency childcare to enabling the gradual reopening of regular childcare with strict adherence to safety measures. However, these centres will operate with limited capacity and employees may have difficulty arranging consistent childcare. Employers are encouraged to consider their processes with respect to receiving accommodation requests from employees and how such requests will be handled, including what types of accommodation the employer is able to provide.
With respect to public transit commuting, the Ontario government continues to encourage working remotely as much as possible. However, where employees are required to attend work it is their responsibility to arrange transportation to work (by public transit or other means). We note that the government has recommended certain measures to transit agencies including: physical distancing markers, the use of face coverings, making hand sanitizer available upon the entering and exiting of vehicles, implementing plexiglass windows between drivers and passengers, and enhanced cleaning of the vehicles.
With respect to workplace safety, it is important for employers to take all necessary steps and precautions to keep their staff and customers safe. The Ontario government has provided sector-specific guidelines for maintaining safe workplaces. In order to reopen safely, employers must review the workplace health and safety guidelines available to ensure appropriate measures are in place. There must also be ongoing compliance with all existing occupational health and safety requirements by all employers.
Managing concerns of employees related to safety, childcare, and health issues requires a fact specific analysis. Please contact your regular lawyer at the firm for assistance with any questions.
As Ontario moves closer to Stage 3, we will continue to monitor developments related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace and will post further updates as information becomes available.