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COVID-19 and Business

Please note that the provincial direction toward COVID-19 Case and Contact Tracing follow-up has changed. Public Health will no longer be following up with individual cases in most workplaces. You do not need to report symptoms or the result of a Rapid Antigen Test to Public Health. Public Health will no longer be following up with individual cases or the employer in most workplaces except for the following highest risk settings:

  • Hospitals (including complex continuing care facilities and paramedic services),
  • Home and community care workers
  • Congregate living settings with medically and socially vulnerable individuals, including, but not limited to, Long-Term Care, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, correctional institutions,
  • Provincial Demonstration Schools and hospital schools.

You can access guidance on how to manage close contacts in your workplace by visiting http://www.ontario.ca/exposed. The following flowcharts will easily help determine how to manage Case and Contact Tracing in your work place:

Public Health will no longer be following up with individual cases in most workplaces. You do not need to report symptoms or the result of a Rapid Antigen Test to Public Health. Employees should follow the guidance on https://covid-19.ontario.ca/exposed and Case and Contact Tracing.

PCR testing is more accurate but is only available to certain eligible groups. This ensures testing is available for people and workers in highest risk settings. Get a PCR test if it is available to you. If one is not available you could also do a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT), please follow up to date guidance on when and how to do these as this has recently changed with the Omicron variant. See our testing section for who is eligible.

Testing prior to returning to work is not effective as the worker may still test positive for a period of time after infection even though they may no longer be contagious. For those staff who are only required to isolate for 5 days from symptom onset or for close contacts who are advised to self-monitor but can return to work, ensure that properly fitted masks are worn, activities where masks need to be removed are avoided where possible and that they avoid contact with vulnerable people during the full 10 day period. See our Case and Contact information for details.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if my employee informs me they have symptoms of COVID-19 and did not pass the Provincial screening tool?

  • Ensure the employee does not come into the workplace.
  • Work with the employee to determine close contacts in the workplace.
  • Use the Who is a Close Contact at Work poster to help determine close contacts in the workplace.
  • Advise close contacts to visit http://www.ontario.ca/exposed for direction on self-isolation and self-monitoring and use the following flowcharts for individuals who have been exposed and for individuals with symptoms.
  • In your workplace, continue to practice physical distancing and use resources on cleaning and disinfecting public settings and public washrooms.
  • Review the importance of employees screening for symptoms and wearing masks correctly. Also ensure that staff that are close contacts monitoring for symptoms or symptomatic staff that have completed 5 days of isolation wear masks properly, avoid activities removing masks as much as possible for the full 10 days and avoid close contact with anyone vulnerable during this time at work.
  • A review of the Workplace Health and Safety Plan can identify whether any changes need to be made to preserve the workforce in light of the increase in COVID-19 infections in the community. Screening for any symptoms before coming to work is critical along with the use of a well-fitted medical mask, maintaining distance among co-workers, and cohorting staff groups who do a similar job.

What do I do if my employee informs me that they have a positive Rapid Antigen Test (RAT)?

What do I do if my employee informs me that they are a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case?

At what point should I close my business due to COVID-19 cases or outbreaks?

Close your business if you do not have enough healthy staff to operate your business safely.

Can I request a letter or a negative test result from the employee to return to work?

  • The Health Unit is not providing letters for return to work with negative test results. COVID-19 test results are private health information.
  • Staff who have completed 5 days of isolation or who are monitoring for symptoms should wear a mask, avoid activities that require mask removal in public and avoid close contact with vulnerable people until the end of 10 full days from exposure/symptom onset. For more information on when an employee can return to work see http://www.ontario.ca/exposed and use the following flowcharts for individuals who have been exposed and for individuals with symptoms.

What do I need to do to reopen my business after a COVID-19 outbreak?

  • Clean your business thoroughly using the following guidance: Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings.
  • Ensure that employees are physically distancing (2M) between each other as much as possible including in workspaces and in change and lunch rooms.
  • Ensure proper protective equipment for your business is being worn by employees as needed (e.g., medical grade masks and eye protection). See the Provincial Website for guidance to determine what PPE is needed.
  • Encourage employees to use the current screening tools for COVID-19.
  • Consider maintaining an up-to-date COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan and consider a continuity of operations plan.
  • Ensure ventilation systems are working and maintained properly.
  • Support good hand and respiratory hygiene.

Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen

As of March 21, 2022, most mask mandates have been lifted. You can find the technical briefing from the Province from March 9 here. The province is moving away from emergency measures to ongoing operations. As we move away from reliance on provincial direction through mandatory requirements, Directives will be replaced with operational guidance or recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and relevant ministry. Organizations and businesses can retain  their own  policies moving forward.

Provincial masking requirements which were set to expire on April 27, 2022 are being extended in current settings until 12:00am on June 11, 2022, including:

  • public transit;
  • health care settings (e.g., hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics that provide health care services, laboratories, specimen collection centres, and home and community care);
  • long-term care homes;
  • retirement homes; and
  • shelters and other congregate care settings that provide care and services to medically and socially vulnerable individuals.

A complete list of settings where masking requirements continue to apply is available online.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health will also maintain the CMOH Directives currently in effect until June 11, 2022, after which the ministry will issue guidance on personal protective equipment recommendations for infection prevention and control in health care settings.

Information for Businesses and Organizations

Although the COVID-19 situation is improving, COVID-19 is still circulating in the community with both hospitalizations and deaths in our most vulnerable populations.

With the lifting of provincially required measures, organizations and business have an opportunity to determine their own workplace policies that will create an environment where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is low for employees and the clients, customers and members of the public they serve. It will also help maintain business continuity. See this resource for more details.

The menus below contain general information on popular topics related to businesses/organizations.

As of March 1, 2022, the Government of Ontario does not require proof of COVID-19 vaccination in any public settings. A business/organization can voluntarily choose to require proof of vaccination. If you do, ensure you are following all relevant legislation. You may wish to receive legal advice prior to implementing a voluntary proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirement. Boosters are an important part of ensuring your COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date and the boosters will help to provide better protection from transmission. See the new guidance on staying up to date (fully vaccinated).

Mask/face covering use is no longer mandatory in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces. Businesses/organizations can assess the need for masks based on their own risks such as the vulnerability of the population they serve or staff, the ability to distance or have proper ventilation in their space, the amount of time spent indoors, in large groups of the public and in close contact with others. For more information on masks, see our Face Coverings/Masks webpage. It is important to consider the risk of workers and their need to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g., safety goggles/glasses, face shield, mask/face covering), if in the course of providing services they are:

  • Required to come within 2 metres of another person who is not wearing a mask or face covering and are not separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.
  • Providing a service that requires close contact with individuals or large groups of people indoors over an extended period of time.

You can use this poster in your premises to advise the public of face covering/mask rules at your business. If you choose not to implement a policy – but would like to encourage people to continue wearing masks at your business you can use this instead: Masks Encouraged Sign.

All businesses/organizations should have a COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan in place. Use this sample COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan and COVID-19 Safety Checklist as guides to create your own. The Safety Plan can help you to asses and plan what measures would be best for your workplace and what may be needed to keep your staff and clients safe. You can try this Workplace Safety Plan Builder from the Government of Ontario.

It is a good idea for business owners to conduct a risk assessment and to apply a combination of infection prevention and control practices as appropriate for your workplace. From most effective to least effective, the recommended practices are:

  • Limit in person contact (e.g., work from home, use virtual services).
  • Change the physical environment (e.g., barriers, physical distancing, hand hygiene stations).
  • Introduce administrative protocols (e.g., screening, policies, staff training and education).
  • Use Personal Protective Equipment (e.g., mask/face covering, face shield) depending on the job exposure risk.

Other Resources:

Although active and passive screening are no longer required you may determine from a risk assessment of your workplace that you may continue with screening of staff and or patrons in some form. The following tools are still available for you to use:

Businesses/organizations are encouraged to ensure that equipment, washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers and commonly touched objects (e.g., door handles, light switches, seating, debit machines, shopping carts, etc.) that are accessible to the public are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition. For more information on cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces, see this Government of Canada resource: COVID-19: Cleaning and Disinfecting.

See our Workplace COVID-19 Vaccine Policies webpage for more information.

Hierarchy of Controls

Most effective to least effective recommended COVID-19 business practices pyramid

For Employers

Tips for Businesses and Organizations to support “Living Well alongside COVID-19″.

  • Consider if/when some employees can work from home. Less staff can provide more space.
  • Consider an online meeting platform to meet with customers or colleagues when possible, to make meetings accessible to those who are more vulnerable (or living with family members who are vulnerable).
  • Establish and/or maintain online or telephone ordering services.
  • Refer to this fact sheet from the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario for information on how staff working from home can maintain privacy, security, and access to information in their work.
  • Use appointments to limit the number of people in one place.
  • Monitor the number of people in your premises.
  • Use clear barriers to protect workers as needed. See supply list for plexiglass in Leeds and Grenville.
  • If you use vehicles as part of your business consider one person per vehicle or one employee in the front seat and another employee in the back seat. Wearing a face covering/mask and being up to date on your vaccinations while in a work vehicle with others can also help reduce the risk. See the new guidance on staying up to date (fully vaccinated).
  • Stagger employee work schedules and breaks.
  • Set up the break and lunch rooms so people can stay 2 metres/6 feet away from each other.
  • Consider the flow of your business.
    • Customers could be directed one way throughout your place of business to allow for less close contact.
    • Having a separate Entrance and Exit door to avoid customer congestion.
  • Maintain curbside and delivery services as part of your normal business.
  • Implement administrative protocols to manage the risks at your workplace. Consider protocols such as:
    • if a screening process is needed for staff and clients using the Ontario self-assessment tool
    • if you have policies for measures you have in place (e.g., masks, proof of vaccination, distancing, how to deal with staff or clients who have COVID-19 symptoms)
    • training and education to staff on infection prevention and control e.g., on proper use of PPE, hand hygiene, physical distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting practices. Use the videos, posters, and fact sheets on this webpage to support this training.
    • If you should have a Workplace COVID-19 Vaccine Policy
    • Procedures for cleaning and disinfecting equipment, washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers and commonly touched objects (e.g., door handles, light switches, seating, debit machines, shopping carts, etc.) that are accessible to the public as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition COVID-19: Cleaning and Disinfecting.

General Employee Health

Supporting Employees to Return to Work

As businesses start to re-open, some employees may feel stress and anxiety with re-integrating into a modified workplace as well as the possibility of exposing themselves and/or their families to COVID-19. The Canadian Mental Health Association has outlined a number of ways in which employers can support employees’ return to work during these difficult times. Here are a few tips:

  • Have a Plan: Let employees know that you have conducted a risk assessment unique to your workplace and have developed a workplace safety plan. Engage interested and appropriate employees in the monitoring and evaluation of your plan, and be open to revisions based on feedback and/or as new information emerges.
  • Communicate: Fear and anxiety can grow in the absence of up-to-date and accurate information. Reassure employees that you are looking ahead, staying well informed on the current status of COVID-19 in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark and that you are seeking out credible sources of information. Let your employees know that you will seek answers to any questions they may have.
  • Acknowledge the ‘New Normal’: Share that you know these times are stressful and that it is okay to be anxious. Acknowledge that this is not quite ‘business as usual’ and that there may be long term changes to the way your business operates. Reassure staff that expectations will shift accordingly and you are there to support them in this new work environment.
  • Support Mental Health: Encourage employees to practice self-care and reassure them that it is ok to take steps to manage stress (e.g. relaxation exercises, listening to music, taking regular breaks). Ensure employees are aware of workplace tools to support their transition back to work (e.g. EAP), and direct employees to local coping, helping and mental wellness resources.

For Employees

  • Talk to your employer about work from home options.
  • Follow your workplace policies (e.g., masks/PPE, screening, distancing, and vaccination).
  • Wash or sanitize your hands regularly and wear a mask if you choose to and are not required.
  • If you become sick while at work, notify your supervisor and leave immediately.
  • Adhere to all the infection prevention and control measures in the workplace (e.g., PPE use, distancing, cleaning and sanitizing):
    • Wash or sanitize your hands often.
    • Sneeze or cough into your sleeve.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Keep work surfaces clean and disinfected.

For the Public Accessing Businesses

Businesses can put in place safety measures to protect staff and customers such as mandatory mask, distancing, screening for COVID-19 symptoms or proof of vaccination as they deem appropriate for the risks on their premises. As per the Trespass to Property Act, an Operator can refuse entry and/or service as long as they are compliant with other legislation, including but not limited to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19, as amended.

*NOTE: Businesses putting in measures to protect the health of their customers, staff and our community. Finding ways to work together is important. If you feel you are being denied service, reach out to the business to see if there are alternative ways to interact (e.g., curbside pick-up).