Workplaces and Businesses

Guidance for reopening businesses

For information on what employers and employees can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please read:

*This document will be continuously updated as needed, so please check back regularly.

Testing for COVID-19 for those at risk of exposure through their employment

According to the Ontario government, effective immediately (May 24, 2020), testing is available for the following populations:

  • Asymptomatic, risk-based testing: 
    • People who are concerned that they have been exposed to COVID-19. This includes people who are contacts of or may have been exposed to a confirmed or suspected case.
    • People who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 through their employment, including essential workers (e.g., health care workers, grocery store employees, food processing plants).
  • Symptomatic testing: All people with at least one symptom of COVID-19, even for mild symptoms.
No referral is needed. You may go to any assessment centre to be tested. You will receive further instruction from the clinician at the assessment centre based on your individual assessment.

The information below is copied from PHAC: Coronavirus disease: Being prepared: For workplaces

How to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace

Employers and employees need to work together to protect their own health and their clients’ health, as well as deliver essential services.

In general:

  • Increase awareness about COVID-19 through communication with staff.
  • Evaluate the workplace for areas where people have frequent contact with each other and shared objects.
  • Practice physical distancing by keeping a distance of at least two metres between desks and workstations as well as employees and customers, even if you have:
    • no symptoms of COVID-19
    • no known risk of exposure
    • not travelled outside of Canada within the last 14 days.
  • A physical barrier like a cubicle or Plexiglas window also works to increase distance between people.
  • Encourage frequent hand-washing, sneeze and cough etiquette, and staying home when ill.
  • Where feasible, adjust policies to reduce social contact, such as:
    • flexible hours
    • staggering start times
    • teleworking arrangements
    • using email and teleconferencing
  • Relax sick leave policies to support employees in staying home when ill or monitoring symptoms.
    • This includes suspending the need for medical notes to reduce the burden on an already stressed health care system.
  • Prepare for increases in absenteeism due to illness among employees and their families or possibly school closures.
  • Access your business continuity plan for how to maintain key business functions if faced with high absenteeism.
  • Consider the need for cross-training personnel to function in key positions.

Ontario framework for reopening businesses

Stage 1

Stage 1 includes certain workplaces that can meet current public health guidelines. The following businesses are allowed to reopen as of the date listed:

May 19

  • All construction to resume and essential workplace limits lifted (includes land surveyors);
  • Except for indoor malls, all retail stores with a street-front entrance may open under certain restrictions (open by appointment and/or limiting the number of people in the store, and do not use fitting rooms with curtains – only doors and restrict use to every second fitting room to allow for cleaning after use and physical distancing). Operating online or with curbside pick-up and delivery is still encouraged;
  • Vehicle dealerships and retailers, including new and used car, truck, and motorcycle dealers, recreational vehicle and boat, watercraft and marine supply dealers, and other vehicle dealers as outlined by the government;
  • Office-based media operations involving equipment that does not allow for remote working (refer to the detailed list), although media activities that can be completed while working remotely are encouraged to continue. Filming or other on-site activities, especially those that require the gathering of workers, performers or others are not permitted to resume;
  • Non-emergency diagnostic imaging and scheduled surgeries in public or private hospitals and independent health facilities, clinics, and private practices may resume based on ability to meet specified pre-conditions;
  • Certain other health and medical services, such as in-person counselling, psychotherapy, and other mental health and support services, as outlined by the government;
  • Recreational services, including libraries for pick-up or delivery, marinas (pools will remain closed), outdoor recreational sports centres for sports not played in teams (with limited access to facilities), indoor rod and gun clubs, and indoor golf driving ranges;
  • Professional and amateur sport activity for individual/single competitors (non-team), with return to play protocols in place (including physical distancing) and no spectators, except for an accompanying guardian for a person under the age of 18 years. Water-based sports in swimming pools are excluded, as well as high-contact sports;
  • Professional services related to conducting research and experimental development in physical, engineering and life sciences including electronics, computers, chemistry, oceanography, geology, mathematics, physics, environmental, medicine, health, biology, botany, biotechnology, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, pharmacy, veterinary and other allied subjects;
  • All emissions inspection facilities for heavy diesel commercial motor vehicles, including mobile inspection facilities;
  • Veterinary services can resume all services by appointment;
  • Animal services, including pet grooming, pet sitting, dog walking, pet training, training and provision of service animals;
  • Indoor and outdoor household services, such as domestic services (housekeepers, cooks, maids, butlers, personal affairs management, nanny services, babysitters, other domestic personnel, etc.) and cleaning and maintenance services (house cleaning, indoor/outdoor painting, window cleaning, pool cleaning, general repairs);
  • General maintenance and repair services can resume and are no longer limited to “strictly necessary” maintenance.

May 16

  • Golf courses, with clubhouses open only for washrooms and restaurants open only for take-out;
  • Marinas, boat clubs and public boat launches may open for recreational use;
  • Private parks and campgrounds may open to enable preparation for the season and to allow access for trailers and recreational vehicles whose owners have a full season contract;
  • Businesses that board animals (e.g., stables) may allow boarders to visit, care for, or ride their animal

May 11

  • Retail stores with a street entrance (curbside pick-up and delivery)

May 9

  • Hardware stores and safety supply stores (curbside pick-up and delivery, as well as in-store payment and purchases)

May 8

  • Garden centres and nurseries (curbside pick-up and delivery, as well as in-store payment and purchases)
  • Additional essential construction projects (allowing below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects like apartments and condominiums to begin and existing above-grade projects to continue)

May 4

  • Garden centres and nurseries (curbside pick-up and delivery)
  • Lawn care and landscaping
  • Additional essential construction projects, as outlined by the government
  • Automatic and self-serve car washes
  • Auto dealerships (open by appointment only)
  • Golf courses (may prepare their courses for the upcoming season, but not open to the public)
  • Marinas (may begin to prepare for the recreational boating season)

- - - - -

Stage 2 will include more workplaces with significant mitigation plans. This page will be updated once the list of businesses and reopening dates are announced.

Stage 3 will include opening all workplaces responsibly.

More resources for workplaces

Financial relief

  • Interest and penalty relief
  • WSIB payment deferrals
  • Affordable electricity bills

Tax relief

  • Employer Health Tax relief
  • Regional Opportunities Investment Tax Credit

Ontario Chamber of Commerce: Pandemic Preparedness Toolkit for COVID-19

Stop the Spread Business Information Line: 1-888-444-3659

Canada’s Economic Response Plan: Support for individuals and businesses

Support for workers

The Ontario Government has created a new unpaid, job-protected infectious disease emergency leave. You can take this leave if you are not able to work due to COVID-19. Learn more about the Employment Standards Act and if you are eligible for emergency leave.