Further to the initial order mandating the closure of all non-essential workplaces that took effect on March 24, 2020, the Ontario government has followed the recent advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and reduced the list of essential businesses permitted to continue operating during the current state of emergency in an effort to better protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
The reduced list, which can be found here, nonetheless remains fairly extensive and specifically includes some or all businesses in the following sectors:
|· Supply Chains
· Financial Services
· Telecommunications and IT Infrastructure/Service Providers
· Transportation Services
· Agriculture and Food Production
· Resources and Energy
· Community Services
· Health Care and Social Services
Some of the main changes made to the list from its initial iteration include directing certain additional businesses to close and restricting certain specified businesses to providing services by alternate methods, including curb side pickup and delivery, except in exceptional circumstances.
Businesses that sell hardware products, vehicle parts and supplies, pet and animal supplies, office supplies and computer products, as well as repairs and safety supplies are some of the examples of business that will be required to adapt their service methods for the duration of the new order. In addition, only critical construction projects will be permitted to proceed at this time, including industrial projects and infrastructure projects. Residential construction will only be allowed to continue as it relates to projects that are near completion. New residential construction will stop for the time being.
The reduced list will come into effect on Saturday, April 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. and will remain in place for at least 14 days. It is possible that it could be extended beyond that date, depending on the circumstances at that time. It is important to note, however, that businesses that are considered to be non-essential may continue to operate beyond April 4th, and are in fact encouraged to do so, as long as they can do so through teleworking, online commerce or other appropriate remote work arrangements.
In Our View
Information regarding the government’s response to COVID-19 is being released and revised on an almost constant basis. Emond Harnden LLP will continue to monitor relevant information as it becomes available. Any businesses that are unsure as to their status as an essential workplace are encouraged to call the Stop the Spread hotline at 1-888-444-3659 (Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. / Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or to consult with your labour and employment lawyer. For businesses that are contemplating implement remote work arrangements, see our previous Focus alert on Remote Work Considerations: An Employer’s Guide.
For further information or advice on your rights and obligations as an employer when dealing with COVID-19 and similar issues, please contact please contact André Champagne at 613-940-2735, Lynn Harnden at 613-940-2731, Sheri Farahani at 613-940-2745, Porter Heffernan at 613-940-2764 and Kecia Podetz at 613-940-2752.