Businesses and Workplaces – COVID-19 Information

Last updated on November 9, 2020

The Ontario government has developed the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. It ensures that public health measures are targeted, incremental and responsive to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The framework categorizes public health unit regions into five levels: Green-Prevent, Yellow-Protect, Orange-Restrict, Red-Control, and Lockdown being a measure of last and urgent resort.

Ottawa is currently in the Orange-Restrict category.

Please refer to the Ontario government Framework for further details on restrictions for gatherings and specific sectors (restaurant/bars/drink establishments, sports/recreational fitness, meeting/event spaces, retail, personal care services, casinos/bingo halls/gaming establishments, cinemas, and performing arts facilities) under the Orange-Restrict category. Ottawa Public Health is currently working to align our web content and resources with the Framework. 

Businesses who have questions about closures of workplaces or how emergency measures impact their business or employment can call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659. Help is available from Monday to Sunday from 8:30 a.m.―5:00 p.m.

On this page:

Being COVID Wise

Being COVID Wise is how we will be able to resume economic and social activities while COVID-19 is still in our community. Information and resources for businesses are available to help meet current regulations and adapt your workplace to be COVID Wise. As a workplace and business, being COVID Wise will help keep both customers and employees safer during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Thank you so much for your hard work and efforts to help keep our community healthy! 

The four principles of being COVID Wise are the basics of infection prevention and control: 

In a workplace setting, being COVID Wise means: 

  • Posting signage to remind everyone about physical distancing and wearing a mask
  • Following the mandatory mask bylaw 
  • Ensuring employees wear a mask whenever they cannot maintain 2 metre distance (including in break rooms and non-public spaces) 
  • Encouraging customers wear a mask in outdoor settings if they cannot maintain 2 metre distance  
  • Screening all employees for symptoms of COVID-19 before each shift and ensuring they stay home if they have symptoms or feel unwell 
  • Changing processes and/or using visible markers to ensure 2 metre physical distancing
  • Reminding employees and customers to maintain physical distance of 2 metres (six feet) at all times, and as much as possible
  • Providing hand sanitizer or hand washing stations for customers and employees 
  • Employees are informed/trained on the importance of all these measures

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An illustrated mask  Wear a mask

In a workplace setting, being COVID Wise about masks means: 

  • Following the mandatory mask bylaw 
  • Ensuring employees wear a mask whenever they cannot maintain 2 metre distance (including in break rooms and non-public spaces) 
  • Encouraging customers wear a mask in outdoor settings if they cannot maintain 2 metre distance  
  • Post signage to remind everyone about wearing a mask. 

The Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law requires that everyone (with some exemptions) wear a mask in indoor public spaces and in common areas of multi-unit residential buildings. Visit to learn more about when to wear a mask and where you might be able to buy them. 

Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law

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An illustration of a person staying home when sick  Isolate yourself when you're sick

To ensure employees are well and fit for work:

Encourage customers to do their own health assessment and do not permit entry into your establishment if they have symptoms by posting signage at your entrance. 

Encourage your customers and employees to download the COVID Alert app today to protect yourself and others.  The app can let people know of possible exposures before any symptoms appear.

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Two illustrated people with a two metre double ended arrow between them  Stay two metres (six feet) apart from others

Develop a physical distancing plan. Think about how you will maintain distance between customers and employees. Display the details of your plan clearly throughout your business and at the entrance.

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an illustration of hands being washed  Exercise proper hand hygiene

  • Display posters promoting hand-washing and respiratory hygiene
  • Businesses are required to make alcohol-based hand rub available at all entrances and exits as part of the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law.
  • Follow Public Health Ontario cleaning guidance to keep workplaces clean and hygienic.  Increase frequency of cleaning high-touch surfaces such as elevator buttons, door handles keyboards, mouse, phones, desks, computers, seating areas, lunch tables, kitchens, washrooms, etc.

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Adapting your business for COVID-19

Plan for the potential impact of COVID-19 in your workplace by considering 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
What do I do if my employee is being tested for COVID-19 OR being told to self-isolate by Ottawa Public Health?

Unless OPH has contacted you with specific instructions, you are not required to take any additional action at this time.

Your employee who is waiting for test results will be instructed to self-isolate at home and should not go to work.

Your employee may provide you with a general sick note prepared by OPH for individuals needing to self-isolate at home. Please respect this public health guidance as we continue to contain spread of the virus locally.

The length of your employee’s self-isolation period*will vary depending upon their level of risk, refer to the OPH Tested, What Now? handout. Some examples include whether they:

  • Receive a positive or negative test result
  • Are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  • Are identified as a high-risk contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19
  • Are identified as a household contact of a child or youth attending school or daycare
  • Have travelled outside the country

*Self-isolation requirements for residents of Ottawa may differ from those in other health units. Health care workers have different criteria for discontinuing self-isolation.

For more information about discontinuing self-isolation in these and other scenarios, please review the Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 Order for Self-Isolation and Tested for COVID-19.

What are my responsibilities if one of my employees tests positive for COVID-19?

As an employer, OPH recommends that you:

  • Maintain confidentiality of your employee’s personal health information
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have been touched by the employee who tests positive for COVID-19 as soon as possible
  • Support employees who need to be absent from work due to illness or who have been identified as a high-risk contact to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Remain COVID Wise
  • Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19

Your employee who tested positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by Ottawa Public Health. They will be asked to identify anyone with whom they had close contact during the time from 2 days (48 hours) before they developed symptoms until they started self-isolation. OPH will connect with the high-risk contacts (someone exposed to a person diagnosed with COVID-19) of the individual who tested positive. OPH staff will also guide your employee through their self-isolation period.

Public Health staff will determine if the individual posed any additional risk to the workplace than what exists in the general community and take action from there.

Public Health will only disclose a positive case to an employer if it is necessary to manage the exposure risk to others.

If you receive questions from your employees, please refer them to novel coronavirus COVID-19 webpage for more information.


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All essential COVID Wise signage and resources

Additional resources are available on our multilingual web page.

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Resources for employees and training

In a workplace setting, being COVID Wise means employees are informed on the importance of and how to implement all health and safety measures.

The following are links to resources available to employees that may not have sick leave and have to stay home when sick.

  1. Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB); 
  2. Although the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is now closed, the CRA is continuing to accept and process retroactive applications until Dec 2, 2020; 
  3. Beyond the CERB, is the Employment Insurance (EI) program; 
  4. Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB);
  5. COVID-19 (coronavirus) and workplace health and safety;

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Important information for businesses from the Government of Ontario

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Sector specific guidance and resources

Business / Sector Guidance Resources
Arts and Culture
Child care
Construction and Manufacturing
Food establishments

This guidance should be followed along with all regulations from the Province of Ontario, including recent changes to Ontario Regulations 364/20 announced October 2, 2020. 

Offices and Professional Services
Personal Service Settings
Places of Worship
Retail stores 


Sports and Recreation 


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