On November 16, 2020, the Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, of the Ontario municipality of Peel issued an order under section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, R.S.O., c. H. (“Act”) 7 that sets out that Peel employers will face fines of up to $5,000 for every day that an employer fails to comply with the order. The purpose of the order is to try to stem the uptick of COVID-19 or coronavirus spread in workplaces in Peel region.
Under the order, employers must send home any employee diagnosed with COVID-19 or has signs and symptoms of COVID-19. The employer must also send home anyone who has been in a close contact of a person diagnosed with COVID-19.
The employer must also tell the employee to self-isolate. The employer must also implement measures set out in various pieces of provincial legislation, the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario and “sector-specific” guidance for things such as screening, physical distancing and limiting non-essential visitors.
If two or more cases of COVID-19 occur in the workplace, the employer is mandated by this order to do a variety of actions. For instance, the employer must immediately notify Peel Public Health, prepare a list of close contacts of the employee, maintain a log of all persons who attend the premises and provide the contact details of the site manager.
Dr. Loh also strongly encouraged employers in Peel region to provide paid sick leave to their employees so that the employees do not feel they have to choose between a paycheque and their health.
These actions follow Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa. Dr. de Villa has also used section 22 of the Act to enact additional restrictions on restaurants and gyms. These restrictions were in addition to the ones that Ontario’s provincial government had enacted under its new colour-coded COVID-19 reduction system.
These new mandates illustrate yet another incentive for employers to pull up their socks when it comes to protecting employees from the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Be aware that there is an array of rules, regulations, policies, etc. that are set in place to try protect employees and keep workplaces safe. For instance, the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario and the regulations made under it.
Recently the Ontario government has attached personal liability to managers and employees of executive rank to ensure that their workplaces comply with the mandates of public health officials. Please read our blog on that topic for more information.
The bottom line is that employers have a legal duty to maintain the health and safety of its employees across all industries. It is advisable for business of all stripes to remain up-to-date of the necessary safety protocols to be put in place for a safe and health work environment.