An Update on the Ontario Government's Workplace Screening Recommendations

The USW has been informed that new screening recommendations and other changes to the province's Stage 3 rules are now in effect for provincially-regulated employers in Ontario. While the extent to which the new screening recommendations are mandatory for all Ontario employers remains unclear, the government has strongly indicated that they should be followed province-wide. These measures include a list of questions that should be asked before a worker or essential visitor is allowed entry to the physical workplace.

Recommended screening measures

In the provincial government’s press release, the term “recommendations” is hyperlinked to the Ministry of Health's Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses and Organizations). This tool provides basic information only and contains recommendations for businesses or organizations for COVID-19 screening under the Regulation. Specifically, it contains: 

  • a list of questions that, “at a minimum, […] should be used [by employers] to screen individuals for COVID-19 before they are permitted entry into the workplace (business or organization).”
  • information on how to analyze the workers' answers;
  • how to make a decision on whether the workers can enter the physical workplace, based on the answers they provided; and
  • links to further government-issued guidance materials on COVID-19 in Ontario.

The tool directs employers to screen workers before they are permitted entry to the physical workplace, at the beginning of their day or shift. Screening also applies to essential visitors when they arrive. The tool does not specify whether or not the same employees should be subject to screening every time they enter the workplace. That said, the tool does state that it “may be adapted based on need and the specific setting.” 

Who will be screened? 

  • Any workers. This refers to staff and is intended to include students, contractors or volunteers that conduct business or related activities where applicable and appropriate.
  • Essential visitors entering the work environment. These include individuals providing a service in the establishment who are not employees or patrons of the establishment (e.g., delivery, maintenance, contract workers). However, the tool states that essential workers who travel outside of Canada for work purposes should not be excluded entry on this basis alone.

Q&A screening does not apply to:

  • Patrons entering a workplace
  • Emergency services or other first responders entering a workplace for emergency purposes. 

It is important to note that:

  • The tool is not a replacement for clinical assessments, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. 
  • The tool is not legal advice.
  • The recommendations do not include any guidance on whether employees can be required to answer the screening questions, and what consequences could be appropriate should an employee refuse to do so.
  • The Regulation also does not currently discuss the implementation of any additional forms of screening measures, like temperature taking or COVID-19 testing.  

Depending on how Ontario fares during this officially declared “second wave of COVID-19,” Ontario's health authorities may very well issue further advice, instructions or recommendations under the Regulation in the coming weeks and months.