COVID-19 Screening Requirements for Employers

As Ontario enters a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with a surge in cases over the past weeks, employers should be aware of certain obligations and recommendations issued by the Ontario government.

In particular, employers should familiarize themselves with Schedule 1 of the Ontario regulation “Rules for Areas in Stage 3”(the “Rules”), which was enacted under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.

Pursuant to s. 2 of Schedule 1 of the Rules, employers whose business is open must “operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals.”

One such instruction was issued on September 25, 2020 by the Ontario Ministry of Health and sets out the “COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses and Organizations)”.

Workplaces should implement the screening for any workers or essential visitors entering the work environment; this screening does not include patrons entering a workplace. The instruction states that screening should occur before or when a worker enters the workplace at the beginning of their work day or shift.

The recommendation sets out a list of questions to be used to screen workers for COVID-19 before they are permitted to enter the workplace, but this list may be adapted. Anyone who does not pass the screening should be told that they cannot enter the workplace and should self-isolate and call their health provider or Telehealth Ontario. If the individual does pass the screening, they should be allowed to enter the workplace.

The screening is comprised of three parts:

  • Questions relating to potential symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Asking the individual if they have travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days; and
  • Asking the person whether they have had close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

Additionally, under the Rules, employers must also meet all obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the operation of its business.

New Legislation Proposed to Protect Employers from COVID-19 Liability

This week, a new bill was introduced in the Ontario legislature that is intended to provide liability protection to some workers, businesses and non-profits against COVID-19 exposure-related lawsuits.

If passed, the bill would ensure that anyone who had made an “honest effort” to follow public health guidelines while working or volunteering would not be exposed to liability. Conversely, the new law would not protect those who had willfully endangered others or engaged in gross negligence.

The legislation would be retroactive to March 17, 2020, which is when Ontario first introduced its COVID-19-related emergency measures.

The proposed legislation would cover health-care workers and institutions, front-line retail workers, charities and non-profits, as well as coaches, volunteers and minor sports associations.

For Help

The Kitchener-Waterloo employment lawyers at Petker Campbell Postnikoff have many years of experience advising non-unionized employees and employers on a variety of workplace issues, including harassment and termination. Our team will walk you through the details of your dispute, advise you on your rights, responsibilities and obligations, and help you understand your options. If your dispute cannot be settled through negotiation, we can represent you through mediation and the court process.

We represent clients throughout southern Ontario, including the communities of Cambridge, Guelph, Elmira, Brantford, Fergus, Elora and the surrounding area. Call 519-886-1204 or contact us online for a consultation.