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A Further Update on COVID-19 – Employers to Allow Employees to Work from Home Whenever Possible – December 15, 2021

December 15, 2021
by Israel Foulon Wong LLP

Employers to Allow Employees to Work from Home

On December 10, 2021, the Ontario government issued two News Releases outlining the government’s updated response to the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

The News Release entitled ‘Ontario Taking Action to Protect Against Omicron Variant’ (available online here) recommends the following:

On the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ontarians are strongly advised to limit their social gatherings and the number of gatherings they attend over the holiday season. Additional precautions should be taken if all individuals are not fully vaccinated or where vaccination status is unknown. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home[Emphasis added]

The Backgrounder entitled ‘Responding to Omicron and Protecting our Progress’ (available online here) states as follows:

Employers are advised to allow their employees to work from home whenever possible.

As we have previously reported, section 2 of the O. Reg 364/20: Rules For Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step requires that employers comply with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials:

2. (1) The person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall ensure that the business or organization operates in accordance with all applicable laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the regulations made under it.

2. (2) The person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.

Employers are therefore required to comply with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health in the government’s News Releases.

Take Away for Employers

Employers who have gradually returned employees to the physical workplace since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic should reassess their current in-office policies in light of the December 10, 2021 News Releases and make every effort to allow employees to work from home whenever possible. 

Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers must take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers. If working from home is not possible, employers are encouraged to perform an updated risk assessment of the workplace and consider implementing additional safety measures with respect to employees attending the workplace, especially during and after the holidays. Such additional safety measures may include, for example, increased rapid testing, enhanced personal protective equipment measures, encouraging booster shots, or taking in-person meetings back online.

We recommend that you seek legal advice and assistance when assessing your workforce’s in-office presence in light of ongoing developments with the Omicron variant.

Israel Foulon Wong’s Response to COVID-19 Israel Foulon Wong LLP is assessing the situation as it evolves, and is taking all necessary precautions within its workplace. To slow the spread of COVID-19 and for the health of our team and clients, absent extraordinary circumstances we are working remotely until further notice whenever possible. However, please be aware that our offices remain open and are fully functioning. In the circumstances, we encourage our clients to contact us by phone and email to the extent possible. Voicemail messages left at our office phone numbers are immediately forwarded via email. All messages will be promptly responded to. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our clients and would be more than happy to assist you with concerns regarding COVID-19 or any other employment or labour matters.

Legal Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice, which in all circumstances must be tailored to the specific facts of any problem. You should obtain a proper legal consultation in order to determine how this article applies to your specific situation. Please feel free to contact Israel Foulon LLP to learn more at 416-640-1550.