Province-wide Lockdown – What Businesses Need to Know
In response to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, Ontario will go into a province-wide lockdown. The provincial government has announced that all regions of the province will be placed in the grey-lockdown stage of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework as of December 26, 2020. The lockdown will remain in place for Southern Ontario until January 23, 2021, but will lift for Northern Ontario on January 9, 2021.
In response, businesses should understand their requirement to develop a COVID-19 safety plan and make it available in writing for review. Employers need a plan to put controls in place to make the workplace safe. For example, a workplace safety plan will include items such as workplace screening, the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), physical barriers for distancing, process for disinfecting surfaces, etc.
In lockdown (grey), all businesses and organizations that are permitted to be open must have a COVID-19 workplace safety plan. Organizations must create, discuss, and share their plan with employees, and review and update their plan regularly.
In addition to announcing these new restrictions, the government has advised that under the lockdown, schools in Southern Ontario will switch to remote learning when classes resume in the new year. Elementary schools will be closed for in-class learning until at least January 11, 2021, while secondary schools will remain closed until January 25, 2021. All public and private schools both elementary and secondary in Northern Ontario would be permitted to resume in-person learning on January 11, 2021. Childcare centres will remain open for the duration of the province-wide lockdown.
As a result, businesses should consider the implications for their employees. As in previous stages, some employees may require flexibility in their work schedules or to be absent from the workplace in order to care for children who will be, once again, learning at home. Job protection for these employees is provided under the Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL).
Businesses are reminded of the recent updates to the Employment Standards Act regulations pertaining to temporary layoffs, wage reductions, and constructive dismissal that have been extended until July 3, 2021.
There are a number of financial government supports that are available to assist businesses through the pandemic. Our Government Relief Team can help you to understand your options.
Our HR Advisory Professionals are available to support you in developing appropriate safety plans, understanding accommodation obligations, and providing general HR guidance, as it relates to the workplace. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns with the above information.
More articles related to COVID-19: Business Resource Centre