Businesses and Workplaces – COVID-19 Information

Last updated on July 31, 2020

Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace

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City Council makes masks mandatory in indoor public spaces. 
For more information please visitOttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks

For more information on testing and signs and symptoms of COVID-19, please visit our Main Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 webpage.

For business owners and operators: 

To ensure employees are well and fit for work:

  • Do not permit employees to come to work if they have symptoms of COVID-19. For a full list of symptoms, please visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Coronavirus.
  • There is currently no requirement for an asymptomatic employee to be tested before starting work. Please consult OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDCentre for the latest information on testing.
  • To assist in reviewing any symptoms or recent history, employees should complete a health-screening questionnaire before each work shift.
  • If employees develop symptoms while at work, they should notify their supervisor and return home. Employees with symptoms should visit our main Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 webpage for the latest guidance on next steps.
  • Remember! If physical distancing is difficult to maintain, employees are recommended to wear a cloth mask to help protect others from asymptomatic transmission. Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks to learn more about when to wear a mask and where you might be able to buy them. 

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, employers and workplaces should:

To plan for the potential impact of COVID-19 in your workplace, consider the following actions:

  • Identify possible work-related exposure and health risks to your employees and how to reduce these risks.
  • Prepare for possible increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members and/or dismissals of early childhood programs and schools.
  • Explore the flexibility of policies and practices, such as teleworking arrangements, flexible hours, staggering start times, use of email and teleconferencing. 
  • Establish a process for ongoing communication with employees and business partners.
  • Develop a contingency and business continuity plan

To learn more about how to support the mental health of your employees during COVID-19, visit our mental health resources for employers.

For employees:

In order to reduce employee absenteeism and reduce the spread of germs, including the flu and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we recommend your employees:

  • Complete a printable self-assessment questionnaire or online COVID-19 Self-Assessment before entering the workplace, based on your workplace policy.
  • Wash their hands often with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth unless they have just washed their hands.
  • Cover their cough and sneeze with a tissue or into their arm, not their hand.
  • Stay home if they are sick. Use the OPH sick note if needed.
  • Follow Public Health Ontario guidance to keep workplaces clean and hygienic – increase frequency of cleaning high-touch surfaces such as elevator buttons, key boards, mouse, phones, desks, computers, seating areas, lunch tables, kitchens, washrooms, etc.
  • Work from home if possible. If not, Increase the spatial separation between desks, workstations, points of sale, as well as between individuals (e.g., employees, customers). Ideally a 2-metre separation should be maintained, unless there is a physical barrier (e.g., cubicle, Plexiglas window).
  • If physical distancing is difficult to maintain, employees are recommended to wear a cloth mask to help protect others from asymptomatic transmission. Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks to learn more about when to wear a mask and where you might be able to acquire them. 

To learn more about how to support mental health in the workplace, visit our mental health resources for employees.

Additional Information

Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and follow recommendations on how to reduce the spread.

It's OK to NOT be OK. Please know that help is available, and we encourage you to reach out to Distress Centre of Ottawa to connect with someone at 613-238-3311. For more information, please visit our Mental Health and COVID-19 webpage.

Frequently asked questions

What do I do 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
  • There are other situations where your employees may be asked by Ottawa Public Health (OPH) to self-isolate. We strongly recommend that you support the guidance your employees have received from any health authority.
  • Ottawa Public Health has prepared a general sick note for individuals needing to self-isolate at home. Please respect this public health guidance, as we continue to contain spread of the virus locally. March 16, 2020 NEW! “Premier Ford Announces Job Protection for Workers during the COVID-19 Situation"
  • Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19.
  • 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 OPH.
  • Ottawa Public Health is now recommending that all residents of Ottawa practice physical distancing. Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. Consider how you can apply this practice in your work operations.  
What do I do if my employee is confirmed positive for COVID-19? 
What do I do if a patron to my business has tested positive for COVID-19?
  • Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19.
  • Increase the distance between employees and customers (ideally 2 metres)
  • 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 OPH.
  • If you receive questions from your patrons, we invite you to point them to our Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 webpage

Which businesses are allowed to open? 

As of July 17, 2020 the Government of Ontario has enabled certain regions (including Ottawa) to enter stage 3 of the Framework for Re-opening our Province. It is important to remember that those businesses and services that are permitted to reopen must do so with proper health and safety measures in place. For more information on which businesses are allowed to open during this phase, please visit the Government of Ontario website. 

How can employers support their employees to practice physical distancing?

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with.  Some examples of physical distancing measures for employees include: 

  • Working from home;
  • Working flexible hours;
  • Staggering start times; and
  • 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). 
  • Provide space (ideally 2 metres) between colleagues, employees and patrons (e.g. moving desks, adding barriers to counters).

Continue to provide strategies to prevent the spread of germs. 

If physical distancing is difficult to maintain, Ottawa Public Health asks residents to consider wearing a homemade or cloth mask to help protect others from asymptomatic transmission. Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks to learn more about when to wear a mask and where you might be able to acquire them. 

How can physical distancing be practiced in a small business?  

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 physical distancing measures you are taking by posting these on the front door. 

It is important not to go to public or work places when you are sick, even if you are wearing a mask. If you are not sick and are going to an essential workplace where you cannot maintain at least a 2 metre or 6 feet distance from others at all times, then wearing a cloth mask may offer some added protection for you and for others at your workplace. While medical masks are in shortage, we ask that persons who are not healthcare workers wear a cloth mask. Wearing a mask should not replace physical distancing – you should maintain at least a 2 metre or 6 feet distance from others even while wearing a mask. Please refer to our website for information about how to correctly use a cloth mask. Note that you should ensure that you are following all your workplace’s occupational health recommendations.

How can I ensure that my employees are healthy and fit for work?

  • The symptoms of COVID-19 are like many other illnesses, including the cold and flu. At this time, it is recommended that any worker who has any symptoms related to cold, flu, or COVID-19 should be sent home. For more information on symptoms, visit the OPH Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage.
  • Employers should advise their employees to conduct a COVID-19 Self-Assessment before entering the workplace.
Should employees be wearing masks in the workplace?
  • Wearing a cloth mask is NOT a replacement for physical distancing, hand washing, and monitoring your health. Keeping a 2-metre distance is important, but it isn’t always possible (e.g. in a grocery store, on the bus). Wearing a cloth mask adds an extra layer of protection.

    If physical distancing is difficult to maintain, Ottawa Public Health asks residents to consider wearing a homemade or cloth mask to help protect others from asymptomatic transmission. Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks to learn more about when to wear a mask and where you might be able to acquire them. 

Masks and PPE for staff

  • Ottawa Public Health has developed detailed guidance on the use of masks to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This includes a list of vendors who may be able to supply cloth masks. Visit: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/Masks for more information.  
  • The Province of Ontario has produced a Workplace PPE Supplier Directory for businesses to acquire PPE as needed for employees. Businesses and workplaces should also review sector-specific guidelines to determine which PPE is best for your setting. 

For more generic information on COVID-19, including symptoms, testing and the latest public advice, visit our Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage

Guidance Documents

Food Premises:

Personal Service Setting:

More information and resources on are available on Ottawa Public Health's Personal Service Setting web page.

Recreational Water: 

Places of Worship:

Posters and Signage

Additional resources are available on our multilingual web page.

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