COVID in Ontario Workplaces: What is a Gray Zone Anyway?
On November 20, 2020 the Ontario government announced that certain regions of the province would be moved into different colour-coded zones. Effective November 23rd, restrictions were imposed on the City of Toronto and Peel Region as they were moved into Gray Zone which is a partial lockdown. These restrictions will last least 28 days.
For an explanation of the five different zones click here.
In addition, on November 22, 2020, the government filed regulations which make minor changes to the rules for businesses that operate within the Red Zone or the Green/Yellow/Orange Zones. For example, the capacity limit for indoor gatherings has now been lowered.
For an explanation of the three Stages of the Ontario’s government’s framework to reopen the province click here.
This blog summarizes some of the announced changes that now apply to the City of Toronto and Peel region.
- All businesses in the City of Toronto and Peel Region must be closed unless the business or part of the business is listed in Schedule 2 or Schedule 3 of a Regulation [Ontario Regulation 654/20]
- All businesses which are permitted to remain open must comply with a range of general compliance obligations and conditions. There are, however, a number of differences from the earlier rules, including more stringent compliance requirements in certain circumstances.
- the Stage 1 Rules require that all businesses which are open must prepare and make available a safety plan in accordance with the Stage 1 Rules, or ensure that one is prepared and made available, on or before November 30, 2020. For many businesses, this will be a new obligation that did not apply to them while Toronto and Peel were under the Stage 2 rules (i.e. the Red Zone of the Framework). The government has published guidance on preparing Safety Plans.
- Businesses that are permitted to open must also continue to meet the same general compliance obligations that applied while Toronto and Peel were in the Red Zone such as: compliance with the recommendations issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals; and, requiring persons in any indoor area of the premises or business to wear a face covering or mask, subject to the same exceptions as before.
In an ideal world all Toronto and Peel employers would carefully review the Stage 1 Rules to ensure that their operations may remain open and that they are compliant with all legal obligations/requirements. In this utopian world employers in other regions would also carefully review the changes to the Stage 2 and Stage 3 Rules.
Bottom line: The Ontario government has been regularly adding and removing and changing restrictions that are imposed on businesses during the COVID pandemic. I don’t think it is unrealistic to expect most employers – especially small employers – to keep up to date on these changes. However, I believe that most businesses are using common sense and have (i) implemented screening measures, (ii) limited the number of people who come in contact with each other, (iii) limited the duration of the contact, (iv) enforce social distancing, and (v) enforce mask wearing.
For over 30 years, Doug MacLeod of the MacLeod Law Firm has been advising employers on all aspects of the employment relationship. If you have any questions, you can contact him at 416-317-9894 or at [email protected]