COVID-19 Information for Workplaces

Last revised on March 27, 2020

PLEASE NOTE: IMPORTANT UPDATES

March 23, 2020 - Ontario Closing At-Risk Workplaces to Protect Health and Safety

Read the Province of Ontario's news release

Ontario Closing At-Risk Workplaces to Protect Health and Safety

Business-owners Encouraged to Continue their Operations Through Work-From-Home Policies and Innovative Business Models

March 23, 2020 8:30 P.M.

Office of the Premier

TORONTO — Due to the evolving COVID-19 situation, the Ontario government will be ordering at-risk workplaces to close-down, while encouraging businesses to explore opportunities to continue operations through work-from-home and innovative business models. At the same time, the government reminds businesses to put in place protocols for physical distancing and regular hand-washing in order to protect the health and safety of employees and the general public.

Earlier today, Premier Doug Ford was joined by Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance and Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General to announce that the government will be closing at-risk workplaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Essential businesses include, but are not limited to grocery stores and pharmacies, telecommunications and IT infrastructure service providers, and businesses that support power generation, natural gas distribution and clean drinking water. Essential businesses are being asked to put into place any and all measures to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees on the front-lines.

Teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses.

"While this was a difficult decision, we trust that Ontario's business leaders will be able to promote safety while carrying out business and protecting jobs," said Premier Doug Ford. "The grocery store clerks, transit and hydro workers and truckers are out there on the front lines making sure the people of Ontario continue to have access to the products and services they need. It is essential that their workplaces be kept as safe as possible so these local heroes can return home to their families worry free."

At-risk workplaces will be ordered to close by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24th and where possible, take the necessary measures so staff can work from home allowing operations to continue.

"Our government applauds the sacrifice and hard work of all Ontario workers and businesses, and will stand by them through this crisis," said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. "We call on workplaces that remain open to be vigilant and to enforce the highest possible standards of cleanliness and caution as we continue the fight together against COVID-19."

Background Information

Additional Resources

  • Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
March 17, 2020 - The Government of Ontario announced that it is taking decisive action by making an order declaring an emergency
On March 17, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced that it is taking decisive action by making an order declaring an emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. As a result of this declaration and its associated orders, the following establishments are legally required to close immediately:
  • All facilities providing indoor recreational programs including EarlyON Child and Family Centres;
  • All public libraries;
  • All private schools as defined in the Education Act;
  • All licensed child care centres;
  • All bars and restaurants, except to the extent that such facilities provide takeout food and delivery;
  • All theatres including those offering live performances of music, dance, and other art forms, as well as cinemas that show movies; and
  • Concert venues.

Further, all organized public events of over fifty people are also prohibited, including parades and events and communal services within places of worship. These orders were approved by the Lieutenant Governor in Council and will remain in place until March 31, 2020, at which point they will be reassessed and considered for extension, unless this order is terminated earlier. This order does not apply to child care providers overseen by licensed agencies or unlicensed home child care providers. The Province recognizes that there will be many additional questions and is committed to providing additional information on an ongoing basis. 

March 16, 2020 - Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Ministry of Health, has now advised cancelling events or gatherings over 50 people because of the COVID-19 pandemic

On March 16, 2020 , Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Ministry of Health, has now advised cancelling events or gatherings over 50 people because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also requested the closure of the following establishments (until further notice) as part of the enhanced measures to protect Ontarians from COVID-19:

  • Recreation programs
  • Libraries
  • Churches and other faith settings
  • In person dine-in restaurants and bars - NOTE: except for food establishments that offer take out and/or delivery services
  • All daycares

Other establishments also strongly recommended by Ottawa Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, include:

  • Nightclubs and after-hours bars
  • Movie Theatres
  • Concert and indoor live-entertainment venues
March 16, 2020 -  Premier Ford Announces Job Protection for Workers during the COVID-19 Situation
On March 16, 2020 Premier Ford Announces Job Protection for Workers during the COVID-19 Situation
March 15, 2020 - Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, urges people to cancel events of all sizes and limit unimportant trips out of their homes

On March 15th, 2020 Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health, urges people to cancel events of all sizes and limit unimportant trips out of their homes, in order to reduce transmission. 

In accordance with that, the following information should be used to properly assess the risks associated with any gatherings when the limitations have been lifted.

 

If you receive questions from your employees, we invite you to point them to our Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 webpage

Signs and Symptoms

The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) can cause illness ranging from a very mild, cold-like illness to a severe lung infection. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle ache
  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)

For more information on COVID-19, visit our Novel Coronavirus webpage.

Recommendations

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

  • Posting signage to alert workers of any signs and symptoms of acute respiratory illness,
  • Display posters promoting hand-washing and respiratory hygiene,
  • Ensure tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizer are available.

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:

  • 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
  • If possible, stay home if they are sick
  • Avoid visiting people in hospitals or long-term care centres if they are sick 
  • 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.
  • There may be benefit to increasing the spatial separation between desks and workstations as well as individuals (e.g., employees, customers) from each other, ideally a 2-metre separation should be maintained, unless there is a physical barrier (e.g., cubicle, Plexiglas window).
  • Increased awareness about and communication to staff about COVID-19.
  • Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business trips
  • Take precautions for social events

Travel Considerations

Things to consider when you and/or your employees travel.

Before travelling:

Please note: the Government of Canada has issued a Global Travel Advisory. They are advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. Learn more here.

Returning to work after travel

Please be aware: ALL returning travellers from anywhere outside of Canada (including the United States of America) MUST self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to Canada. 

Ottawa Public Health has prepared a general sick note for individuals needing to self-isolate at home. We ask that you please respect this public health guidance, as we continue working to contain spread of the virus locally.

Employers/healthcare institutions may implement requirements for their staff beyond what is being recommended for returning travellers. 

Preparing for COVID-19

To prepare your workplace for COVID-19, 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

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.

Ottawa Public Health is responsible to conduct public health follow-up of close contacts, including any workplace exposures and will contact your organization as needed.

Returning home from travel during this time can be stressful, and it may take time before you feel better and life returns to normal. Give yourself time to heal. 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 required to close? 

  • The following businesses in Ontario have been ordered to close:
    • All facilities providing indoor recreation programs including EarlyON Child and Family Centres;
    • All public libraries; 
    • All private schools (in addition to public schools);
    • All licensed child care centres (this order does NOT apply to child care providers overseen by licensed agencies or unlicensed home child care); 

    • All bars and restaurants, except those that can do takeout and delivery 

    • Other gathering spaces of more than 50 people 

  • For businesses that remain open, we recommend taking the following precautionary measures:
    • Apply physical distancing measures 
    • Provide access to handwashing facilities and place alcohol-based hand sanitizing dispensers in prominent locations throughout the workplace, if possible;
    • Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19. 
    • Notify customers of the physical distancing measures you are taking by posting these on the front door. 
    • Consider additional strategies that workplaces can put into effect
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).
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. 

Resources

In order to decrease transmission of COVID-19 in Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health is now recommending that all residents of Ottawa practice physical distancing. The above Youtube video explains what is physical distancing. 

Read video script

With more cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Ottawa, we are asking that all people in Ottawa practice physical (social) distancing 

What is physical distancing?

  • Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with.
  • Through physical distancing, we can flatten the curve. That means, decrease the number of people ill all at once, so that the healthcare system can keep up and continue to provide life-saving care.

How can you  practice physical distancing?

Here are a few examples:

  • Limit non-essential trips out of the home
  • work to maintain a distance of about 2 meters from other people, as much as possible. 
  • Work from home if you can
  • Avoid visits to long-term care homes, or retirement homes unless the visit is absolutely essential
  • Avoid non-essential trips in the community
  • Limit or cancel group gatherings, including play-dates for children
  • Older adults should avoid gathering in groups of 5 or more at this time

Why you need to maintain a distance of about 2 meters from others:

The human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that come out when you cough or sneeze
  • close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

Our collective efforts are needed as a community. The actions you take will affect not only you, but your loved ones, and our most vulnerable. Stay home if you are able to.

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