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On January 31, 2022, Ontario moved into a modified Step 3 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen. The public health measures under this step are set out in O. Reg. 364/20: Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step, made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.

Previously, at the beginning of January, the province had announced a temporary reversion to Step 2 of the Roadmap to Reopen due to a surge in COVID-19 cases as a result of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The province plans to gradually ease public health measures in three phases, at three-week intervals, with the first phase starting on January 31, 2022. The next two phases are scheduled to take effect on February 21, 2022 and March 14, 2022, subject to the emergence of any concerning public health trends.

Below is a summary of some of the public health measures that are currently in effect under Step 3.

Lifting the Remote Work Requirement

Importantly, the requirement that employees and other individuals performing work for businesses and organizations work remotely, unless the work requires the individual to be on-site, is no longer in effect. Employers may now plan for their employees to return to the physical premises of the worksite, even if the nature of the work does not require them to be on site.

Vaccination Policy and Proof of Vaccination Requirements

Businesses and other establishments which are allowed to reopen under Step 3 must continue to comply with proof of vaccination requirements.

Establishments much require patrons to provide proof of their enhanced COVID-19 vaccine certificate and proof of ID upon entry. Businesses should use the Verify Ontario app in order to check the validity of vaccine certificates. Notably, there is no requirement for establishments to record the names and contact information of patrons.

Additionally, businesses and organizations are still required to comply with any requirements to establish and implement a COVID-19 vaccination policy in their workplace. These policies may be required in accordance with instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health or by a medical officer of health.

Businesses and organizations must also continue to comply with any requirements to develop and ensure compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination policy.

Re-Opening of Establishments and Increased Capacity Limits

Restaurants, cinemas, bars, gyms, and other establishments are now allowed to re-open and operate at a 50% capacity limit.

Restaurants, bars, meeting and event spaces, and other venues where food and beverages are sold must ensure that patrons remain seated, with a maximum of ten people seated per table. Patrons at concert venues, theatres, and cinemas are also required to remain seated.

Food and drink services are prohibited at indoor sporting events, concert venues, theatres and cinemas, bingo halls, and other similar venues.

Indoor spectator areas at facilities used for sport events or recreational fitness activities, concert venues, and theatres are allowed to operate at the lesser of a 50% capacity or a maximum of 500 people.

For a full list of establishments that are subject to these new capacity limits, please read our previous blog.

Increased Limits for Social Gatherings

Social gathering limits have increased to ten people indoors and 25 people outdoors. The capacity limits at indoor organized public events have also increased to 25 people.

Takeaways for Employers

As Ontario transitions to Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen, employers should ensure compliance with the relevant public health restrictions and guidelines that apply.

Under the phased approach to lifting public health measures, the province is set to enter the next phase of the reopening plan on February 21, 2022. The dynamic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, has caused the province to pause reopening plans before, and this may occur again if there is an emergence of concerning public health trends or health care indicators. We advise that employers continue to stay informed about current COVID-19 public health measures and restrictions, and adjust accordingly to any deviations from the reopening plan that may occur.

We will continue to monitor for news related to COVID-19 and will promptly post about any updates relevant to employers.

This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues.

This information is not intended as legal advice.