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New COVID-19 Reporting Obligations for Toronto Employers

On Monday January 4, 2021, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, issued a letter to all employers in the City of Toronto that are permitted to open under the Reopening Ontario Act., which, among other requirements, changes the reporting obligations for Toronto employers regarding COVID-19 cases within their workplace.

This 4-page Letter of Instruction (“Instructions”) sets out additional measures that Toronto employers are required to take when it comes to:

  • Notification to Toronto Public Health;
  • Infection Prevention Measures; and
  • Support for Workers.

The most noteworthy changes are the increased obligations on employers to notify Toronto Public Health. Toronto businesses and organization must immediately notify Toronto Public Health, as soon as they become aware, when 2 or more people test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day time period in connection with the workplace premises.

If these circumstances arise, employers must also notify the Ministry of Labour and “other relevant government authorities”. The Instructions do not expand on the meaning of the latter but do provide a phone number to contact for clarification questions.

The Instructions provide significant powers to Toronto Public Health. For example, employers must:

  • have a designated contact person at the workplace available to communicate with Toronto Public Health and implement measures;
  • be able to produce updated contact information for all workers, within 24 hours of a request from Toronto Public Health; and
  • be prepared to cooperate with Toronto Public Health personnel. The Instructions provide the example of allowing Toronto Public Health personnel entry into the workplace premises for inspection and to support enhanced infection prevention and control.

Further, to encourage reporting of COVID-19 symptoms, employers are to ensure that their employees are aware of income replacement and work-related benefits they are entitled to in relation to COVID-19.

Exemptions for Sector-specific Organizations

Not all employers must abide by these Instructions. Certain sector-specific businesses and organizations are exempt. For instance:

  • licensed child care programs;
  • Health care providers and entities (that are covered by the Health Protection and Promotion Act);
  • Schools and school boards (licensed under the Education Act); and
  • Schools and private schools that are operating in accordance with a return-to-school direction issued by the Ministry of Education and approved by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Legislation and Directives Prevails Over this Letter of Instruction

The Letter of Instruction is issued under the authority of regulation 82/80: Rules for Areas in Stage 1 under the Reopening Ontario Act. However, in the event of an inconsistency, the relevant provincial legislation and/or directives will prevail.

As a reminder, under the Reopening Ontario Act, there are numerous regulations that provide guidance on rules for regions in varying stages under the province’s coloured-zones approach. Currently, there are five zones of public health measures:

  1. Grey – Lockdown (stage 1)
  2. Red – Control (stage 2)
  3. Orange – Restrict (stage 3)
  4. Yellow – Protect (stage 3)
  5. Green – Prevent (stage 3)

Since December 26, 2020, there has been a province-wide shutdown; the City of Toronto remains in the grey zone and in lockdown.

For more information on Ontario’s COVID-1- Response Framework, visit the province’s website for updates.

For more information on current COVID-19 orders and by-laws in the City of Toronto.

Contact Us

If you are an employer and need assistance managing your employees in light of the changes to the reporting obligations for Toronto employers, or an employee who has been wrongfully dismissed, our team of experienced legal professionals at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at +1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.