COVID-19 Information: Workplaces, Employers, Employees

Last updated: 12 p.m. EST, May 22, 2020

For general information and the latest community updates about COVID-19, visit Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

Learn more about Ontario's list of essential workplaces.

For fact sheets, posters, and signs, visit our COVID-19 Response Resources page.

Safety: general sector-specific guidance

Ontario has released safety guidelines for specific sectors to protect workers, customers and the general public from COVID-19 as it prepares for a gradual reopening of the provincial economy.

Please see the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 Guidance: Essential Workplaces as well sector-specific guidance below.

Guidance notes

Please see the provincial guidance notes for the following sectors:

  • Construction
  • Food processing
  • Restaurant and food services
  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing

Guidance documents from Health and Safety Associations

Please see the technical sector guidance documents for information on the following:

  • General (curbside, customer service, worker transportation)
  • Agriculture
  • Auto
  • Construction 
  • Film and TV
  • Fire Services
  • Food retail
  • Forestry
  • Funeral
  • Healthcare
  • Maintenance
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Office
  • Police Services
  • Retail
  • Tourism and hospitality
  • Transportation
  • Transit
  • Utilities

Sources:

The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association 

Workplace Safety and Prevention Services 

The Public Service Health and Safety Association 

Workplace Safety North 

Occupational health and safety: tip sheets

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety is offering Pandemic COVID-19 tip sheets for the following sectors.

  • airline and ground crews
  • construction
  • daycares
  • emergency and patient intake
  • first responders
  • food processing
  • home delivery and couriers
  • long-term care
  • manufacturing
  • mining
  • retail
  • transportation
  • work camps

Each document offers health and safety tips and good practices, for both employers and workers, specific to each industry or sector. Organizations and businesses can adopt this guidance to protect their workers and prevent the spread of infections.

Physical distancing in the workplace
Physical (or social) distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you and your employees come into close contact with. Some examples of social distancing measures for employees include: 
  • Working from home
  • Working flexible hours
  • Staggering start times
  • Limiting the number of patrons/clients your employees would have close contact with (e.g. fewer scheduled appointments, limited number of patrons in a store at any one time).
    • Determine maximum number of persons allowed in the store at any one time to maintain physical distancing between staff and customers.
    • A good rule of thumb when calculating is one person per 2 metres squared or 4 square meters of retail floor space. (Public Health Agency of Canada recommendation for physical distancing in retail)
  • Provide space (ideally 2 metres) between colleagues, employees and patrons (e.g. moving desks, or adding barriers to counters, etc.).
  • Provide adequate hand washing stations and hand sanitizer for your employees.
  • Continue to clean and sanitize your workplace to prevent the spread of germs.

How can a small business practice physical distancing?

Any strategies that limit the number of people you come into close contact with and increase the distance between people (ideally 2 metres); for example:

  • Increase the space between employees and patrons at counters by using screens or barriers;
  • Limit the number of patrons in the store at any one time;
  • Limit the hours of operation; and
  • Notify customers of the social distancing measures you are taking by posting these on the front door.
Supporting mental health 

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused anxiety, distress and other strong emotions in individuals, families, workplaces and communities across the globe.

To support mental health in the workplace, review Managing Through COVID-19 [Ottawa Public Health] for recommendations on how to protect and support mental health and safety.

Visit our COVID-19 and mental health page to learn more about local help available and other mental health resources for individuals.

Healthcare workers

In addition to the province's support for workers, visit the Ministry of Health's guidance for the healthcare sector as well as our information page for health professionals.

For information on how to self-isolate, visit our self-isolation information page.

Food Premises Operators

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, if you operate a food premises you are not permitted to provide a dine-in option. Your establishment can remain open only if you can provide take-out or delivery options limiting social interactions between people. Learn more at: 

Also review Restaurant and food services health and safety during COVID-19, a set of resources, tips and best practices to help employers and employees prevent the spread of COVID-19 and work together to reopen the province.

Personal Service Settings 

All personal service settings (e.g. hair salons, tanning beds, spa, nail salons and tattoo shops, etc.) have been ordered to close under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.  We will do our best to provide updates as new information becomes available. Subscribe to our COVID-19 web page to receive the latest updates: www.hpph.ca/coronavirus.

If you have any questions, please contact Huron Perth Public Health by email at inspections@hpph.ca.

If you are unable to email, you can contact us at 1-888-221-2133 or 519-482-3416 press 1, and then ext. 2069.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my workplace is not following public health directions related to COVID-19?
  • As of March 26, an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act requires any person entering Canada by air, sea or land to self-isolate for 14 days whether or not they have symptoms of COVID-19. There are a few exceptions, please see Public Health Agency of Canada's latest instructions for travellers.
  • Review Ontario's list of essential workplaces as well as your employee rights to safety and emergency leave.  
  • Public health does not have the authority to direct employers or employees who are not following provincial or federal recommendations (as opposed to orders) at this time.
  • We encourage employees with concerns to share credible information and the latest recommendations from the Ministry of Health and Huron Perth Public Health with your workplaces. Other options you have include:
    • Review your workplace policy & procedures
    • Speak with your HR manager or consult with your health and safety committee, if applicable
    • You also have the right to contact the provincial Health and Safety Contact Centre.
What if a workplace is in violation of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act?
Police are responsible for enforcing emergency orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Please note that some public health directions are strong recommendations, but may not be part of an emergency order.

Local police:

 How do I know if a workplace is considered an essential service?
Read the province of Ontario's list of essential services. Please note that non-essential businesses may still provide work and services online, by telephone or by mail/delivery.
 What if someone in our workplace has travelled outside the country?
Employers are obligated to ensure a healthy and safe workplace for all of their employees. Keep updated with the latest information, follow the latest travel recommendations and inform your staff.

Before travelling:

Please note: the Government of Canada advises Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice.

Returning to work after travel:

Should workplaces in non-healthcare settings ask employees to wear masks?

When following provincial guidance for workplaces, workplaces may consider masks to be used by employees and customers as a way to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses from the wearer to others (source control). Learn more about using masks for source control as well as this factsheet on non-medical masks and face coverings.

Please note that surgical grade masks should be preserved for those providing health care for others, such as in hospitals, doctors offices, long-term care and retirement homes, and in community and congregate settings, as well as for people who are ill.

If a workplace is going to ask its staff to use masks as personal protective equipment (PPE) or as source control, the employer must provide adequate training on the care, use and limitations, including how to put on and take off, and when to perform hand hygiene. 

Review the province’s instructions on how to properly wear, fit, remove and clean your non-medical face mask.

If your workplace is looking for PPE, visit Ontario’s Workplace Supplier PPE Directory

What if my employee is being tested for COVID-19?
  • While the individual is waiting for test results, the individual should not go to work and should self-isolate.
  • For a case of COVID-19 identified in Huron or Perth, Huron Perth Public Health conducts public health follow-up of close contacts, including any workplace exposures. We will contact your organization or premises as needed to see if additional infection prevention and control measures are required.
  • Individuals that have had close contact (spent extensive time within 2-metre radius) with this employee may need to take additional precautions and will be contacted by HPPH. 
  • There are other situations where your employees may be asked by Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) to self-isolate. We strongly recommend that you support the guidance your employees have received from any health authority.
  • Please note that the province has created an unpaid, job-protected infectious disease emergency leave
  • Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19.
  • Review the physical distancing measures in your workplace and consider any improvements that could be made. 
What if my employee is confirmed positive for COVID-19?
  • Individuals testing positive for COVID-19 are directed to self-isolate for 14 days, from the start of symptoms or 24 hours after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer.
  • For a case of COVID-19 identified in Huron or Perth, Huron Perth Public Health conducts public health follow-up of close contacts, including any workplace exposures. We will contact your organization or premises as needed to see if additional infection prevention and control measures are required.
  • Individuals that have had close contact (spent extensive time within 2-metre radius) with this employee may need to take additional precautions and will be contacted by HPPH.
  • Please note that the province has created an unpaid, job-protected infectious disease emergency leave
  • Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19.
  • Review the physical distancing measures in your workplace and consider any improvements that could be made. 
  • If you receive questions from your employees, we invite you to point them to our novel coronavirus COVID-19 webpage.
One of my employees is a household contact of a healthcare worker who is being tested for COVID-19. Can my employee still come to work?
  • Public Health will be working with the healthcare worker to provide direction and advice for the healthcare worker and the healthcare worker’s close contacts.

  • If the healthcare worker is not sick, household contacts (such as your employee) can go to work in most cases. The healthcare worker may be advised to take extra precautions at home to avoid transmission of COVID-19 while awaiting test results. Additionally, when at work, the healthcare worker will be taking appropriate precautions.

  • If the healthcare worker is sick, and COVID-19 is suspected, household contacts (who have had close contact with the healthcare worker) will be advised to self-isolate, pending test results and given additional public health guidance.

  • At all times, if your employee is sick, they should self-isolate at home and call their family doctor for an assessment.

Should employers require sick notes from employees?
Some employers have requested notes from employees, either confirming the employee has tested positive for COVID-19 or confirming they have been cleared to return to work. The Public Health Agency of Canada asks employers to consider suspending the need for medical notes to return to work, as it reduces the burden on an already stressed health care system.
When can employees who have recovered from COVID-19 return to work?
  • Employees with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 are required to self-isolate for 14 days, from the start of symptoms or 24 hours after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer.
  • If an employee has followed the self-isolation recommendation above, they can feel confident they are no longer infectious.
    • When symptoms resolve this indicates that the period of being contagious is ending, and that they have cautiously protected others by these measures.
 What information can I share with my staff?
  • Ensure the information you share with your staff is from a credible source.
  • Support the mental health of your staff during this very stressful time. Sharelocal mental health supports or call 211.
  • Remind staff to stay home when they are sick.
  • Provide regular communications to your staff via email or teleconference.
  • Remind staff to use resources available to them like an employee assistance program (EAP). 
  • Encourage staff to take care of themselves and work on reducing stress and anxiety by:
    • taking regular breaks
    • being active daily
    • eating a variety of healthy foods
    • getting adequate sleep
    • relaxing and limiting screen time where possible.