COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus)

General Workplace Guidance

This section contains general information on COVID-19 designed to support workplaces and employers.  Lambton Public Health provides advice based on best practices, available evidence and in the interest of employee and community health. Individual employers are responsible for decisions regarding worker safety as per the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act and other applicable legislation.  Access the Government of Ontario website for full details on what workplaces can reopen, open with restrictions, and operate as an essential workplace (safety guidelines):

Business-owners with questions are encouraged to call the Stop the Spread hotline at 1-888-444-3659. The hotline is available from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm. Monday to Friday.

Along with provincial government, Lambton Public Health reminds businesses to put in place protocols for physical distancing and regular hand-washing and cleaning in order to protect the health and safety of employees and the general public. Training supports for employers/employees are available.

Frequently Asked Questions

SCHOOL SUPPORT: What policies should be in place for employees during this time?

Review policies and/or develop policies to support employees of school-aged children in the event they require time off to care for a sick or self-isolating child.

Some key items to include:
• There should be no disincentive for workers or volunteers to stay home while sick or isolating.
• Review policies regarding paid and unpaid leave of absences to support employees if time is required to be taken off.
• Have flexible work policies that allow parents to work from home, at different times or to be able to switch shifts with other staff members.
• Ensure policies reflect the employers legal obligation to accommodate an employee who has to be off work due to COVID-19 illness or is required to self-isolate or has to care for a family member who is ill or is in self-isolation. The following outlines the Ontario’s Human Rights Code  obligations of the employer in these situations:
◦ Under the Human Rights Code (Code), an employer may not discipline or terminate an employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is perceived to have COVID-19 (because, for example, they are exhibiting certain symptoms). Similarly, an employer may not discipline or terminate an employee if they are unable to come to work because medical or health officials have quarantined them or have advised them to self-isolate and stay home in connection with COVID-19.
◦ The federal government has called for all travellers entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry with exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people, and that all Canadians, as much as possible, should stay home.
◦ In these circumstances, employer absenteeism policies must not negatively affect employees.
◦ On March 19, 2020, Ontario passed Bill 186, Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020, which allows for job-protected leave without pay to employees under medical investigation, supervision or treatment, or in isolation or quarantine, or who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives, or are affected by travel restrictions, due to COVID-19. The measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020.
◦ Employees who cannot work because of COVID-19 may also be entitled to sick or disability or other leave benefits that may be available from their employer under the federal Employment Insurance (EI) program. Eligible workers with no or limited paid-leave benefits through their employers can apply for up to 15 weeks of EI benefits if they cannot work for medical reasons. Visit the federal government website for more information.
◦ Employees also have other rights under the Employment Standards Act regarding termination (e.g. severance and notice of termination). Visit the Ministry of Labour and Skills Development website for more information. Employees may also have rights regarding termination under common law.

SCHOOL SUPPORT: How can I run a business if key employees may not be able to report to work due to their illness or their child’s illness? 

Develop strategies for staff that have school-aged children: 
• Build staff capacity by considering cross-functional training especially for critical positions.Cross training staff can help keep your business strong when employees are absent.  
• Consider the need to hire additional staff on a temporary or permanent basis.
• Workplaces associated with franchises may want to consider having staff members work out of different locations where necessary.

SCHOOL SUPPORT: Working from home is not a viable option in our workplace (ie. retail or service) setting. What if an employee has to isolate or be off with a child that is ill for 14 days?

Develop strategies for staff that have school-aged children:
• Build staff capacity by considering cross-functional training especially for critical positions.Cross training staff can help keep your business strong when employees are absent.  
• Consider the need to hire additional staff on a temporary or permanent basis.
• Ensure policies reflect the employers legal obligation to accommodate an employee who has to be off work due to COVID-19 illness or is required to self-isolate or has to care for a family member who is ill or is in self-isolation. The following outlines the Ontario’s Human Rights Code  obligations of the employer in these situations:
◦ Under the Human Rights Code (Code), an employer may not discipline or terminate an employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is perceived to have COVID-19 (because, for example, they are exhibiting certain symptoms). Similarly, an employer may not discipline or terminate an employee if they are unable to come to work because medical or health officials have quarantined them or have advised them to self-isolate and stay home in connection with COVID-19.
◦ The federal government has called for all travellers entering Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry with exceptions for workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people, and that all Canadians, as much as possible, should stay home.
◦ In these circumstances, employer absenteeism policies must not negatively affect employees.
◦ On March 19, 2020, Ontario passed Bill 186, Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020, which allows for job-protected leave without pay to employees under medical investigation, supervision or treatment, or in isolation or quarantine, or who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives, or are affected by travel restrictions, due to COVID-19. The measures are retroactive to January 25, 2020.
◦ Employees who cannot work because of COVID-19 may also be entitled to sick or disability or other leave benefits that may be available from their employer under the federal Employment Insurance (EI) program. Eligible workers with no or limited paid-leave benefits through their employers can apply for up to 15 weeks of EI benefits if they cannot work for medical reasons. Visit the federal government website for more information.
◦ Employees also have other rights under the Employment Standards Act regarding termination (e.g. severance and notice of termination). Visit the Ministry of Labour and Skills Development website for more information. Employees may also have rights regarding termination under common law.

SCHOOL SUPPORT: What government supports are in place to help small businesses remain viable and do their part in preventing COVID transmission?  

To help all Sarnia-Lambton area businesses navigate these uncertain times that are a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, check out Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership’s website for Government Programs and Resources for Businesses

What determines a workplace outbreak and what process takes place?

Workplace outbreaks are declared when two or more employees test positive for COVID-19 within a reasonable time frame to suspect transmission in the workplace. In this situation, Public Health will isolate cases, test and isolate those who have been exposed, and implement changes to reduce risk of transmission. Workplaces will only be named if public notification will help to identify additional close contacts that cannot be determined through contact tracing. Learn more about contact tracing.
 
While we know it can be concerning to learn about new cases or outbreaks in the community we are encouraging everyone to follow these tips to protect themselves.

Visit our website regularly for more COVID-19 information, resources, and updates: https://lambtonpublichealth.ca/2019-novel-coronavirus/

What can I do to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in my business?

All employees should understand and comply with the infection prevention policies and practices in place in their workplaces. Employers should use the risk-informed decision-making guidelines for workplaces and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

There are important steps to take. This document will provide information to support all who continue to work in the essential services.

Sector Specific Guidelines – Province of Ontario.

When do I send someone home because they have COVID-19 symptoms?

As an employer it is your duty to keep your employees and patrons safe from COVID-19. Here are the specific steps you will need to take if one of your workers has symptoms which may be related to COVID-19, or is diagnosed with COVID-19:

Step 1: Create a Safety Plan
• Use this template – Ontario’s Workplace Safety Plan guidance document

Step 2: Exclude symptomatic workers from the workplace
• If a worker calls in sick or informs you of symptoms, or close contact with someone with symptoms, have them take the self-assessment. Ask the worker to follow any recommendations given by the tool, including being tested and self-isolating.
• If a worker shows symptoms in the workplace, they should return home and self-isolate immediately. If the worker cannot leave immediately, they should be isolated until they are able to leave. Have a plan in place to deal with this and train supervisors on how to handle the situation.
• Ask the worker to contact their doctor or Telehealth Ontario at Toll-free: 1-866-797-0000 for further directions about testing and self-isolation.
• If the worker is very ill and requires urgent medical attention, call 911 and let the operator know that the person may have COVID-19.

Step 3: Contact Lambton Public Health
• Immediately contact Lambton Public Health for guidance on next steps. Public health will provide instructions and do contact tracing if needed.
• To support contact tracing, have a system in place so you can provide information about which people had close interactions with an affected worker. This could include information such as:
    ◦ date and approximate length and frequency of interaction
    ◦ full names
    ◦ contact telephone numbers
    ◦ addresses (for workers) or the name of the visitor’s business

Step 4: Follow Lambton Public Health Guidance
• Lambton Public Health may require:
    ◦ other workers who were exposed are notified and sent home to self-isolate, self-monitor and report any possible COVID-19 symptoms
    ◦ the workplace be temporarily shut down or particular activities be suspended while the affected workplace or area and equipment are disinfected
    ◦ other public health measures are implemented
• Disinfect surfaces that may have been touched by the ill worker as soon as possible. Read Public Health Ontario’s COVID-19 fact sheet about cleaning and disinfection for public settings.
• Self-isolation and return-to-work:
Lambton Public health may require self-isolation for a minimum of 14 days for workers with symptoms, and for those who have had close contact with an individual with symptoms or a confirmed diagnosis.
Symptomatic workers may need to self-isolate for longer based on the advice of Lambton Public Health or their health care provider.

Step 5: Report to Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
• If you are advised that one of your workers has tested positive for COVID-19 due to exposure at the workplace, or that a claim has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), you must give notice in writing within four days to the following:
    ◦ Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
    ◦ workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative
    ◦ worker trade union (if applicable)
• Additionally, you must report any occupationally acquired illnesses to the WSIB within three days of receiving notification of the illness.

For more information, please refer to:
Occupational Health and Safety Act
COVID-19 and Ontario’s Human Right’s Code

What places/activities must remain closed? Who can I call if I have questions?

The following high-risk places and activities are not yet safe to open, due to the likelihood of large crowds congregating, difficulties with physical distancing, or challenges maintaining the proper cleaning and sanitation required to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

• Amusement parks and water parks
• Buffet-style food services
• Dancing at restaurants and bars, other than by performers hired by the establishment who follow specific requirements
• Overnight stays at camps for children
• Private karaoke rooms
• Prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports
• Saunas, steam rooms, bath houses and oxygen bars
• Table games at casinos and gaming establishments

Businesses that are unable to open or are facing difficulties in operating under the Stage 3 restrictions may visit Ontario.ca/reopen to submit a reopening proposal.

If you have a question about stage 3 businesses, organizations or activities, you can call 1-888-444-3659 (Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm) to confirm if the business or activity is permitted to operate. 

For information on enforcement visit Lambton Public Health’s COVID-19 Enforcement calls to Municipalities page.

What are the gathering limits and where do they apply?

• Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people.
• Outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people.
• In all cases, individuals are required to continue to maintain physical distancing of at least two metres with people from outside their households or social circles.
• All businesses, services and public spaces when hosting an event are subject to indoor or outdoor gathering limits and ensuring physical distancing can be maintained.
• People at their place of work, including performers and crews, do not count towards gathering limits.
• People gathering indoors for religious services, rites or ceremonies, and wedding ceremonies or funeral services, can continue to fill up to 30 percent of the capacity of the particular room, as introduced in Stage 2.

More information on gathering limits.

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