Covid-19 Impact Update: Additional Business Closures and Compliance Obligations for Essential Workplaces

 

By Leanne Standryk; 

April 3, 2020 Premier Doug Ford ordered the closure of additional businesses no longer considered essential under Schedule 2 of the Updated Emergency Order made pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.  Closures are effective April 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. for a period of 14 days, with the potential for extension.

Schedule 2 of the Updated Emergency Order contains extensive revisions.  Under Schedule 3 of the Order, the Government announced additional mandatory compliance obligations on business that continue to operate.  A full list of the amendments may be accessed at https://www.ontario.ca/page/list-essential-workplaces.  We provide you with the following summary and highlights:

                Compliance Obligations: Businesses that Continue to Operate

                Persons responsible for the place of business shall:

        • Operate the business in accordance with all applicable laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the regulations made under it
        • Operate the business in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting.

Details regarding compliance with recommendations and instructions may be accessed through the following links:

https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus

https://www.publichealthontario.ca

Retail and Service Restrictions: Alternative Methods of Sale

Businesses that continue to operate and that engage in retail sales to the public, except for pharmacies and business that primarily sell food and beverages at retail MUST to the fullest extent possible restrict public access to the place of business by providing alternative methods of sale such as curb side pick-up or delivery.

Businesses that sell hardware products, vehicle parts and supplies, pet and animal supplies, office supplies and computer products (including computer repair), and safety supplies are still designated essential however the public may no longer have access to the stores.  Services must be provided by an alternative method of sale including curbside pick-up or delivery.

Construction Industry

Non-critical construction work and services including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors are required to cease operations April 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. with some exceptions.  Continued operations are limited to those strategically important to industrial and infrastructure projects including those:

        • Associated with the healthcare sector, new facilities, expansions, renovations and conversion of spaces that could be re purposed for healthcare spaces
        • Required to ensure safe and reliable operations of, or to provide new capacity in, critical provincial infrastructure including transit, transportation, energy and justice sectors beyond day to day maintenance
        • Critical industrial construction activities required for:
          • the maintenance and operations of petrochemical plants and refineries,
          • significant industrial petrochemical projects where preliminary work has already commenced,
          • industrial construction and modifications to existing industrial structures limited solely to work necessary for the production, maintenance, and/or enhancement of Personal Protective Equipment, medical devices (such as ventilators), and other identified products directly related to combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The residential construction sector will also see additional restrictive measures permitting the continuation of only projects where:

        • a footing permit has been granted for single family, semi-detached and town-homes
        • an above grade structural permit has been granted for condominiums, mixed use and other buildings, or
        • the project involves renovations to residential properties and construction work was started before April 4, 2020.

Construction and maintenance activities necessary to temporarily close construction sites that have paused or are not active may continue to ensure ongoing public safety.

Hotels and Motels, Shared Rental Accommodations

Are required to close pools, fitness centers, meeting rooms and other recreational facilities that may be a part of the operations of the business

Manufacturing Sector

Businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials, including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers, (e.g. primary metal/ steel, blow molding, component manufacturers, chemicals, etc. that feed the end-product manufacturer), regardless of whether those other manufacturers are inside or outside of Ontario, together with businesses that support and facilitate the movement of goods within integrated North American and global supply chains.

Temporary Access to Closed Businesses

Temporary access is permitted to businesses that are closed for the purpose of:

        • performing work at the place of business in order to comply with any applicable law;
        • allowing for inspections, maintenance and repairs to be carried out at the place of business;
        • allowing for security services to be provided at the place of business; and
        • attending at the place of business temporarily,
        • to deal with other critical matters relating to the closure of the place of business, if the critical matters cannot be attended to remotely; or
        • to access materials, goods or supplies that may be necessary for the business to be operated remotely.

 

Is my Business Essential?

Understanding what an essential business “is” requires careful interpretation of the Emergency Order. Currently there are no guidelines that have been published by the Government for Ontario businesses to assist with the determination. If you have questions, we encourage you to contact legal counsel.

                The Government of Ontario has confirmed that teleworking, online commerce or other innovative ways of working remotely remain permitted at all times and are strongly encouraged for all businesses.

Ontario Government Quick Facts

https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/04/ontario-extends-business-closures-to-stop-the-spread-of-covid-19.html

        • Everyone in Ontario should stay home unless absolutely necessary and practice physical distancing to reduce their exposure to other people. Avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people outside of your immediate families.
        • If you think you may have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has it, first self-isolate and then use Ontario’s Self-Assessment Toolto see if you need to seek further care.
        • Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health: wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer; sneeze and cough into your sleeve; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; avoid contact with people who are sick; and stay home if you are sick.

We encourage all employers to review the revised Updated Emergency Order.  If it is unclear whether you are required to cease operations either in whole or in part, we recommend that you obtain legal advice.  Non-compliance may result in considerable liability under section 7.0.11 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act R.S.O. 1990, c.E.9

We maintain committed to providing you with updates as they become known to us.  In the meantime may you continue to be safe and in good health.  We are in this together.  We will get through this together, stronger and more resilient.

 

Lancaster Brooks & Welch LLP’s , Labour & Employment department are able to provide legal advice for those impacted by the pandemic and we can be contacted at 905-641-1551.

 

 

 

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