Labour & Employment Law Blog

Ontario Employers Must Screen Employees for COVID Using New Screening Tool

Ontario Employers Must Screen Employees for COVID Using New Screening Tool

At the end of September 2020, Ontario’s Ministry of Health set out new screening rules as well as a screening tool for businesses and organizations with respect to COVID-19. Organizations and business are required to comply with all directives of Ontario’s Ministry of Health pursuant to Ontario Regulation 364/20. These regulations are under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, S.O. 2020, C. 17. Specifically, section 2(3) of the Regulation 364/20 in Schedule 1 states that the person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals.

The screening tool provided by the Ministry is a simple medical-type questionnaire that asks “yes” or “no” questions related to symptoms that could be symptoms of COVID-19 or Coronavirus. A copy of the screening tool can be found here.  A worker or employee should “pass” the screening tool only if they answered “no” to each question.

The Ontario Ministry of Health has set out that workplaces must implement screening of every employee or worker and every “essential visitor.” The Ministry defines an employee or worker as a staff member (including students and volunteers) that enter the workplace each day. The Ministry defines an “essential visitor” as an individual who provides a service to the business or organization that are not employees, patrons or customers. Examples of an “essential visitor” would be contract workers, delivery personnel or maintenance workers. The Ministry specifically sets out in its recommendations that customers or patrons of the business or organization are not required to be screened by the business or organization. Emergency workers such as first responders are also not required to be screened by the business or organization.

The Ontario Ministry of Health further sets out that screening should take place when the employee or worker first enters the premises of the business or organization at the start of their shift. Any worker, employee or “essential visitor” who does not pass the screening tool should be prevented from entering the workplace and should self-isolate and contact their health care provided or Telehealth Ontario.

Our Thoughts 

The Ontario Ministry of Health fails to provide any guidance with respect to how businesses or organizations should actually implement the screening tool in an effective way. For instance, the screening tool contains no identifying information with respect to the actual employee who completes the physical form. Nor does it set out the date or time on which the form was completed. It will need to be changed by the business or organization to have any use at all. For instance, Toronto Public Health’s version of the screening tool is perhaps better as it includes an additional question about PPE use as well as a place to include a name and date/time of completion of the screening tool. A copy of that screening tool can be found here. The employer could also implement their own version of the screening tool into an online questionnaire that would be accessible to the particular employee. There seems to be no requirement that the organization has a paper copy of the screening tool.

The Ontario Ministry of Health also provides no direction as to how the business or organization is to store or keep the screening tool once completed by the employee or worker.

The Ontario Ministry of Health also does not provide any direction with respect to any privacy concerns that an employee or worker may have related to the screening tool. More information can be found about employee privacy and the COVID-19 pandemic in our blog about the topic.

The above article is for general information purposes only, does not constitute legal advice or create a solicitor-client relationship. Because each case is unique and factually driven, if you have concerns with regard to the foregoing issues, please make an appointment with one of our lawyers or a qualified legal practitioner elsewhere. We represent clients in the Greater Toronto Area including Toronto, North York, Markham, Vaughan, Thornhill, Newmarket, Aurora, Brampton, Mississauga, Barrie, Ajax, Whitby, Pickering and Oshawa.