On May 6, 2020, Ontario made important announcements about how it is gradually reopening its economy under the Framework for Reopening Our Province (read our recent article for an overview of this framework), pursuant to the advice of top health experts. Although Ontario has extended its emergency orders in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic until May 19, 2020, it also announced that certain workplaces will be allowed to reopen in the next week. Some businesses will be allowed to reopen fully with others being allowed to provide delivery and curbside pickup. The government will also loosen restrictions for certain construction projects.
Extension of Emergency Orders Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic
On May 6, 2020, Ontario extended the Emergency Orders that it has issued under s.7.0.2(4) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic until May 19, 2020. The Emergency Orders include the closure of non-essential workplaces, except for certain workplaces that will be allowed to reopen sooner, as set out below.
Ontario Workplaces that will be Allowed to Reopen Within the Next Week
Workplaces that can Fully Reopen
Beginning May 8, 2020, Ontario garden centres and nurseries will be allowed to fully reopen their workplaces.
Similarly, beginning May 9, 2020, Ontario hardware stores and safety supply stores will be allowed to fully reopen their workplaces.
These businesses were previously allowed to offer curbside pickup and delivery, but they will now be allowed to have customers shop in-store again.
Ontario also clarified that the health and safety guidelines applicable to grocery stores and pharmacies will also apply to garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores, and safety supply stores upon their reopening. These guidelines are contained in the Ministry of Health’s Guidance Document for Essential Workplaces.
Workplaces that can Partially Reopen
Beginning May 11, 2020, non-essential retail businesses in Ontario, such as clothing stores, will be allowed to partially reopen their workplaces by offering curbside pickup and delivery, so long as their store has a street entrance and they comply with the health and safety guidelines for essential workplaces discussed above.
Loosened Restrictions for Certain Construction Projects
Ontario also announced on May 6, 2020 that demolition work related to essential construction projects, new and existing below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects (e.g. apartments and condominiums), and existing above-grade multi-unit residential construction projects will be considered “essential construction projects” going forward.
Today’s announcement will surely be music to the ears of Ontario employers that will be allowed to reopen their workplaces in the next week, and it is also an encouraging sign for other employers that will have to wait a bit longer to reopen their workplaces.
As we have discussed previously on this Resource Centre, employers must ensure that they take every reasonable precaution for the health and safety of their workers in the context of the “new reality” that the COVID-19 pandemic has created. Failure to do so may endanger workers, customers, and the public, and may also result in liability to employers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
To assist businesses in operating in a safe way once they reopen, the government released sector-specific guidelines and posters that contain recommendations on keeping workers and members of the public safe. The guidelines include advice on preventative actions, such as physical distancing and workplace sanitation (read our recent blog for an overview of the guidelines).
However, as stated above, garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores, and safety supply stores must consult and follow the guidelines set out in the Ministry of Health’s Guidance Document for Essential Workplaces and more broadly must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the health and safety of their workers.
Employers that are still waiting to find out when they can reopen their workplaces should begin (or continue) planning how they will reopen their workplaces in a manner that adequately protects the health and safety of their workers and customers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic so that they are prepared when they are finally allowed to reopen.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues. This information is not intended as legal advice.