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January 5, 2022

Ontario Moves to Modified Step 2 in Response to Omicron: Employees Required to Work Remotely Unless Nature of Work Requires Them to be On-Site

Authors Todd Weisberg and Jozef Hadlaw-Murray

On January 3, 2022, the Ontario government announced that due to the staggering COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates related to the Omicron variant new temporary measures would be introduced. Effective January 5, 2022, at 12:01 a.m. the province will move to a modified version of “Step Two of the Roadmap to Reopen” plan.

The new measures include:

  • Requiring businesses and organizations to ensure employees work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site.

  • Reducing social gathering limits to five (5) people indoors and ten (10) people outdoors.

  • Limiting capacity at organized indoor public events to five (5).

  • Retail settings, including shopping malls, may remain open at fifty percent (50%) capacity.

  • Closing indoor meeting and event spaces, except as it relates to:

    • Childcare;
    • Court and government services;
    • Social services;
    • Collective bargaining;
    • Mental health/addiction services up to ten (10) people; and,
    • Exams for limited fields/occupations up to fifty (50) people.
  • Outdoor meeting and event spaces may remain open with restrictions.

  • Closing indoor dining at restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments. Outdoor dining with restrictions, takeout, drive through and delivery is permitted.

    The government also announced the following measures applicable to schools and school-aged children:

  • All public and private schools must revert to remote learning until at least January 17, 2022.

  • School buildings may remain open for the following purposes:
    • childcare;
    • in-person instruction for students with special education needs that cannot be accommodated remotely; and,
    • staff that are unable to deliver quality instruction from home.
  • Free emergency childcare will be available for school-aged children of health care and other frontline workers.

In addition, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will reinstate Directive 2, which mandates that all hospitals pause all non-emergent and non-urgent surgeries and procedures to preserve critical care and human resource capacity.

Finally, the government will expand the new “Ontario Business Costs Rebate Program” in recognition of the strain that the Omicron variant, and the above-noted measures, will have on small businesses. Businesses required to close or reduce capacity will be granted rebate payments for a portion of the property tax and energy costs they incur while subject to the measures.

The measures are expected to remain in effect until at least January 26, 2022.

The foregoing is for informational purposes only and should in no way be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice tailored to your circumstances and business, please contact any of SOM LLP’s lawyers by email or telephone.

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