On June 9, 2020, the Ontario government released operational guidance for the reopening of childcare centres. This new guidance supports the government’s announcement that childcare centres across the province can reopen as of June 12, 2020, with strict health and safety measures in place. (For more details on the reopening announcement, please see our recent article.)
The operational guidance addresses licensing and health and safety requirements including screening, testing, the use of personal protective equipment, staffing, and prioritizing family and access to childcare spaces, among many other concerns. The guidance document notes that the advice of local public health units will prevail in case of any conflict with the requirements laid out in this new document.
Despite the official reopening date of June 12, 2020, all childcare centres must put in place the new health and safety requirements before they will be allowed to reopen. In particular, licensed childcare operators will be required to notify the Ministry of Education and provide documentation of all their health and safety protocols prior to their planned restart date. Many childcare employers may need several weeks to fully develop and implement all the new requirements and complete the notification process before they can reopen.
Childcare centres should note that their legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees will likely require them to go beyond the government’s guidance and implement even more strict workplace health and safety policies. Employers in this sector should therefore conduct risk assessments to identify the hazards and corresponding risks specific to their unique workplaces. Proper risk assessments should help guide employers in developing reopening plans that ensure worker safety, as well as the health and safety of the children in the centre’s care.
In addition, the provincial government announced that emergency childcare will end on June 26, 2020, after which date families accessing this service will resume paying fees. The government is also currently developing a guidance document to specifically address new funding for childcare programs which will assist these employers at implementing the requirements under the new guidelines.
This blog is provided as an information service and summary of workplace legal issues. This information is not intended as legal advice.