Ontario is set to lift its mask mandate for most settings on March 21, 2022, and eliminate the mandate altogether by April 27, 2022.
As of March 21, 2022, visitors and guests in most indoor settings, including restaurants, gyms, event spaces and schools, will no longer have to wear a mask.
As of April 27, 2022, those using transit systems, and visitors and guests in long-term care and retirement homes, hospitals, shelters, jails and congregate care and living settings will no longer have to wear a mask.
Additionally, on April 27, the Ontario government plans to lift all COVID-19 related mandates and letters of instruction.
However, in his press conference on March 9, 2022, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore stated that a mask mandate may be reinstituted if a new COVID-19 variant of concern is discovered, or during the winter cold and flu season.
What does this mean for workplaces?
As of March 21, 2022, masking to protect against COVID-19 will no longer be required in workplaces outside of long-term care homes, retirement homes, hospitals, shelters, jails and congregate living settings. However, individual employers may choose to continue requiring employees to wear masks, as employers continue have a general duty to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker, pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. What is considered a “reasonable precaution” varies based on the circumstances of each workplace.
Moreover, regardless of policy, individual employees may also choose to continue to wear masks in the workplace, if they are more comfortable doing so. To this end, in his press conference, Dr. Moore repeatedly asked Ontarians to be kind to one another if they decide to wear a mask.
In addition to the lifting of the mask mandate, the Government is also eliminating the requirement for workplace safety plans, effective March 21, 2022.
Employers should be aware that although Ontario is lifting its mask mandate, individual municipalities that have instituted their own mask mandates may not lift those mandates at the same time. Employers are responsible for complying with both provincial and local laws, and employers in local jurisdictions with mask mandates should remain on top of local law to ensure compliance.
As we’ve seen throughout the past two years of the pandemic, nothing is certain and although the above targets have been set by the Ontario government, employers should stay alert to any additional updates or changes leading up to March 21, 2022 and April 27, 2022. Dentons Canada’s Employment and Labour group will continue to closely monitor and report on these updates.