COVID-19 Information: Workplaces, Employers, Employees

Roadmap to Reopen: Ontario, including Huron Perth, is currently in Step 3 of Ontario's Roadmap to Reopen. During Step 3 of the Roadmap, we must all continue to follow the public health measures, advice and restrictions that are in place. 

Updated Instructions and Toolkit for Employers

Update: Under their Symptoms, Screening & Testing Resources, the Ministry of Health has changed the COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses & Organizations). This guidance document has been replaced with two separate documents/online tools issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health: 

Changes to the screening tool include the addition of certain symptoms, as well as a separate screening tool for individuals who are under the age of 18. 

The person responsible for a business or organization that is permitted to be open under O. Reg. 364/20: Rules for Areas at Step 3 must screen workers for COVID-19 before they go to work or start their shift each day. Additionally, businesses and organizations that are permitted customers at this time, must at minimum be passively screening patrons; however, active screening of customers prior to entry is considered a best practice. 

On November 12, 2020, Huron Perth Public Health released updated Public Health Instructions to Persons Responsible for a Business or Organization permitted to be open under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA) and related Regulations, or otherwise. The full Instructions can be found below. 

It is recommended that you consult with the Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development (1-877-202-0008), who may have further requirements for your workplace. In addition, for more information about the provincial emergency order or how emergency measures impact your business, you may also contact the Ontario Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.

Resources:

PDFs from the Step-by-Step COVID-19 Prevention Toolkit
Safety: General sector-specific guidance

Learn how to develop your COVID-19 workplace safety plan.

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 as 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

Sources:

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.

Public health measures in the workplace

To prevent COVID-19 in the workplace, organizations must focus on the following areas:

  • Screening
  • Physical Distancing
  • Cleaning and Disinfection
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Masks
  • Education and Support

Screening

  • Workplaces will use active screening practices for all employees as outlined in the Public Health Instructions.
  • Clear signage will be posted for all customers entering the building about not entering the building if they: are sick; have had close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19; have been instructed to self-isolate by public health or their healthcare provider.

Physical Distancing

Effective measures must be in place at all organizations to maintain 2 metres physical distancing amongst all employees and customers, to the fullest extent possible, to limit the number of people you and your employees come into close contact with.

Ways to enable workers and/or volunteers to maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres/6 feet from other people in the business or organization include:

  • Installation of barriers, such as plexiglass, to maintain separation as a primary means of source control
  • Scheduling and other administrative changes at your business or organization to reduce the number of people who must share the same space including during shifts, lunch and other breaks
  • Using available outdoor space whenever possible (for example, for meetings, breaks, client interactions such as curbside pick-up)
  • Where staff leave their workspaces and move into areas where 2 metres/6 feet cannot be maintained, masks are worn.
  • Ensure that staff and customers/visitors are aware of the need to physically distance in spaces such as hallways or small spaces such as washrooms or storage rooms.
For staff you can consider encouraging:
  • Working from home
  • Working flexible hours
  • Staggering start times
For customers or visitors:
  • Provide visible signage throughout your business/organization on how to maintain 2 meters/6 feet (e.g. floor markings, signs)
  • Limit number of customers/visitors inside your business or organization:
    • Determine maximum number of persons allowed in the store at any one time.
    • 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)
  • Implement unidirectional (one-way) flow throughout publicly accessible areas
  • Notify customers of the social distancing measures you are taking by posting these on the front door

Cleaning and Disinfection

  • The virus that causes COVID-19 may be transferred to surfaces or objects. Workers can be infected if they touch their face with contaminated hands.
  • It is critical that organizations have policies and procedures in place to ensure cleaning and disinfecting occurs regularly to keep it as free as possible from the COVID-19 virus.

Personal Hygiene

  • Provide clear information and instruction to your staff, volunteers, customers and other visitors, such as contractors and suppliers, on personal hygiene during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Policies and procedures must be communicated to staff and/or volunteers through training sessions.
  • Excellent hygiene practices are promoted and enforced, including hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette.
  • Make alcohol-based hand rub available at all entrances and exits if handwashing facilities (i.e. sink) are not available.
  • Make it easy for your staff, customers or visitors to follow hygiene practices. Provide plenty of opportunities to clean hands, either with hand washing facilities or alcohol-based hand rub.

Masks

  • All individuals must wear a mask where a physical distance of 2 metres cannot be maintained throughout all areas of the business and when employees work in public spaces of the business where suitable barriers are not present, unless it is required to temporarily remove the face covering for services provided by the business.
  • Proof of exemption is not required and should never be asked for by an owner/operator or other visitor.
  • For information about face coverings in the workplace, including exemptions, see the Instructions and toolkit at the top of this page.
Antigen tests

Provincial Antigen Screening Program:

  • The Provincial Antigen Screening Program is a program that allows employers to add an additional safety measure in workplaces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Participating in rapid, on-site testing may facilitate the identification of an individual infected with COVID-19 in the workplace, and may prevent asymptomatic individuals from unknowingly spreading COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • For more information, refer to the Antigen Screening Program FAQ document. 
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

Please see the latest information and guidance for Food Premises Operators.

Personal service settings

Please see the latest information and guidance for operators of Personal Service Settings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my workplace is not following public health directions related to COVID-19?
  • Review Ontario's list of essential workplaces as well as your employee rights to safety and emergency leave.  
  • Under Huron Perth Public Health's Updated Public Health Instructions, HPPH staff will follow up when issues of non-compliance are observed or received by way of complaint. Where additional provincial or federal recommendations or orders must be followed, public health will work with applicable agencies when required.

  • 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.
Do employees need to wear eye protection at work?
  • HPPH strongly recommends that ALL workplaces ensure employees wear eye protection (i.e. face shield, goggles or safety glasses) in addition to wearing masks when physical distancing (6 ft/2 m) cannot be maintained.
  • Wearing a mask does not necessarily rule out exposure to COVID-19. With the increasing contagiousness of Variants of Concern (VOC), the use of proper eye protection is critical to reduce the risk of exposure.
  • If employees do not wear eye protection, and a case of COVID-19 is identified in the workplace, there can be a significant impact to your workforce (i.e. large cohorts of workers being dismissed as high-risk contacts).
What if my employee is being tested for COVID-19?
  • For a case of COVID-19 identified in Huron or Perth County, 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 or have not worn proper PPE such as eye protection and masks) 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.
  • Learn more about the province's support for workers.
  • 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 10 days, from the start of symptoms or when they do not have a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications), and symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours. 
  • 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 support for workers in place.
  • 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. 

One of my employees has been identified as a high-risk contact, can my employee still come to work?

All employees must follow the direction of Public Health if they are contacted as a high-risk contact. The following is subject to change, and is for general information purposes only. (Note: Fully vaccinated means it has been 14 days or longer since the person has received their second dose of vaccine). 

  • Fully vaccinated individuals who are considered high-risk contacts and have COVID-19 symptoms:
    • Must self-isolate and get tested.
      • If their test is negative, they can return to work if it has been 24 hours since their symptoms started improving.
      • If their test is positive, they will have to continue to self-isolate.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals who are considered high-risk contacts and are asymptomatic (do not have any COVID-19 symptoms):
    • Individuals who are fully vaccinated at the time of their high risk exposure:
      • Are not required to self-isolate.
      • Are required to get a PCR test done (but do not need to isolate while waiting for results). Note that there are some exceptions.*
      • This is provincial guidance, and it’s important to note that workplaces may have varying rules and policies for employees that have a high-risk exposure.
      • Individuals must report high-risk exposure to their employer and follow any workplace restrictions.
      • *Note: this excludes residents of LTCH’s and RH’s, they are required to isolate. Self-isolation may still be required of the contact at the discretion of the local public health unit. Those with immunocompromising conditions may also be required to self-isolate even if fully vaccinated after a high-risk exposure, as data is currently limited on vaccine effectiveness.
  • Not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated individuals that are considered high risk contacts:
    • Must self-isolate for 14 days from the date of exposure and get a PCR test.
    • Must continue to self-isolate even if the test result is negative.
  • Everyone is advised to keep following public health measures such as wearing a mask, physically distancing, washing hands frequently and staying home when sick, to stop the spread of COVID-19, even once fully vaccinated.
  • Ontario will be sharing additional guidance based on your vaccination status to help you safely enjoy the activities permitted in the Roadmap to Reopen. Once this guidance is released, HPPH will share widely as well.
  • Learn more about Variants of Concern.

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.
Do I need a clearance swab before I return to work?
  • Clearance swabs are NOT recommended at all for general workplaces. Even clearance swabs for healthcare workers are not routinely recommended and there are specific guidelines to reflect this (acute care considerations only). This is because re-testing of a previous positive may result in another positive result even though the individual is no longer contagious, so this general practice is not advised with current testing practices.
  • Once someone has completed their isolation period under the guidance of public health, and their symptoms have resolved, they are considered to be no longer contagious.
When can employees who have recovered from COVID-19 return to work?
  • Employees with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 will be advised by public health on how long to isolate for. Isolation periods can range depending on the situation.
  • If an employee has followed the self-isolation recommendations from public health, they can feel confident they are no longer infectious when they do not have a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications), and symptoms are improving for at least 24 hours.

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:

Returning to work after travel:

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. Share local 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.