Williams HR Law LLP

Ontario has Ordered Non-essential Businesses to Close for Two Weeks Starting March 25 Due to COVID-19

March 24, 2020

On March 23, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontario is ordering all non-essential businesses to shut down for at least fourteen (14) days,

beginning March 25, 2020. To be clear, the province has stated that teleworking and online commerce are still permitted for all businesses during the shutdown, such that employees working from home are not directly affected by the order.

Although the Ontario government has not explicitly stated what the penalties will be for employers that fail to comply with the order, Premier Ford has stated that there would be “consequences” for non-compliance including “bylaw enforcement” by municipalities. We will provide an update once it becomes clear which emergency power the Ontario government has issued the shutdown order under, as that will determine the potential penalties, which could be up to $10,000,000 per day of non-compliance for corporations depending on the power being relied on by the province.

The Ontario government has also released a list of the types of businesses that it deems to be essential and that are therefore not subject to the shutdown order. The businesses deemed essential are listed and categorized by industry. While not every business within each industry is considered essential, the industries within which there are some essential businesses include:

  • Retail and Wholesaling;
  • Food Services and Accommodations;
  • Institutional, Residential, Commercial and Industrial Maintenance;
  • Telecommunications and IT Infrastructure/Service Providers;
  • Transportation;
  • Manufacturing and Production;
  • Agriculture and Food Production;
  • Construction;
  • Financial Activities;
  • Resources;
  • Environmental Services;
  • Utilities and Community Services;
  • Communications Industries;
  • Research;
  • Health Care and Senior Care and Social Services;
  • Justice Sector;
  • Other Businesses; and
  • Business Regulators and Inspectors.

Businesses that supply support, supplies, systems or services necessary for essential businesses/services to operate are also considered essential.

Employers should consult the official list of essential businesses to determine whether they are subject to the shutdown order.

Employers carrying on “non-essential” businesses that have not already done so should, to the extent possible, arrange for work-from-home arrangements for employees before the shutdown order comes into effect at 11:59pm on March 24, 2020. These employers should also determine the impact of the shutdown on employees who will be unable to work due to the shutdown, which in many cases will involve the difficult decision to lay employees off.

If you require advice or assistance in understanding your organization’s legal and strategic risks and options as a result of the shutdown, please contact a member of our team.

This blog is provided as information and a summary of workplace legal issues. This information is not intended as legal advice.