Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
With key public health indicators beginning to show signs of improvement and expected to continue, Ontario announced on January 20, 2022, that commencing January 31, 2022, it would begin to take steps to cautiously and gradually ease public health measures in phases with 21 days between each step.
On January 27, 2022, Ontario filed Regulation 26/22 made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (Act), which provides that all public health units in Ontario will be moving, once again, to Step Three of its Roadmap to Reopen (Roadmap) on January 31, 2022. Ontario first moved to Step Three of the Roadmap on July 16, 2021; however, effective January 5, 2022, the province temporarily reverted to Step Two with modifications in order to blunt the transmission of the Omicron variant and prevent the province’s hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
The complete rules for the move back to Step 3 are available in O. Reg. 364/20 (Step 3 Rules) made under the Act, as amended by O. Reg. 25/22. We discussed the Step 3 Rules in detail here when Ontario initially moved into Step 3 of the Roadmap. The amendments to Step 3 set out in O. Reg. 25/22 are:
- The requirements in the Step 3 Rules for businesses and facilities to record the names and contact information of patrons and maintain records of such information are revoked; and
- Capacity limits in concert venues and spectator areas in sports facilities are reduced to a maximum of 500 people.
Significant Change Regarding Remote Work Requirement
In Step Two of the Roadmap, businesses and organizations were required to ensure that their employees worked remotely unless they were required to be on-site due to the nature of their work. There is no such requirement in Step Three; therefore, effective January 31, 2022, when the province moves back to Step Three, employers may allow their employees to return to the workplace. Employers need to exercise caution because they must still comply with their overall obligation under occupational health and safety legislation to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of their workers. This involves a risk assessment for the particular workplace (with any required input from a health and safety representative or joint health and safety committee) before a final decision is taken on any return to work.