Ontario employers now legally required to screen employees coming to work – using the government’s “Screening Tool”

Ontario’s “Stage 3” Regulation now requires employers to conduct employee screening for COVID-19 whenever employees come to work, using questions set out in a new “Screening Tool” issued by the Ontario Ministry of Health. The Regulation was made on Friday, September 25, 2020, and is already in effect.

Although many Ontario employers were already conducting screening as a best practice, the new legislation makes it a legal requirement – and employers’ screening must comply with the government’s new Screening Tool. Failure to conduct screening as directed in the Screening Tool can lead to charges and significant fines.

Screening Tool

The Regulation now requires:

The person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall operate the business or organization in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals.

The Screening Tool is called “COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces (Businesses and Organizations)”. It is published by the Ministry of Health and specifically states that it is the screening tool mentioned in the Regulation. The Screening Tool:

  • Requires employers to “implement this screening for any workers or essential visitors entering the work environment”.
  • Provides that “Screening should occur before or when a worker enters a workplace at the beginning of their day or shift, or when an essential visitor arrives”.
  • Requires employers to use, “at a minimum”, the screening questions in the Screening Tool to screen individuals for COVID-19 “before they are permitted entry into the workplace”, but permits employers to adapt the Screening Tool “based on need and the specific setting”.
  • Requires that employers advise any person who does not pass the screening to “not enter the workplace” and that they should self-isolate, call their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario.

What should employers do?

Ontario employers should now:

  • Check their screening form and ensure that it includes the questions in the government’s Screening Tool and otherwise complies with the requirements in the Screening Tool.
  • Ensure that all employees answer the screening questions before coming to work, either electronically or by paper form, and keep all completed screening forms.

It appears from the Regulation and the Screening Tool that it is not enough to require employees to simply “self-screen”. The employer should collect the completed screening form for each employee for each day the employee is in the office. Failure to do so could lead to legal trouble for the employer – particularly if there is an outbreak in the workplace.

The Ontario government’s full news release on the new screening requirements can be read here.

If you have any questions regarding these new regulations, please contact a member of the Dentons Employment and Labour team in Toronto or in Ottawa.

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Adrian Miedema

About Adrian Miedema

Adrian is a partner in the Toronto Employment group of Dentons Canada LLP. He advises and represents public- and private-sector employers in employment, health and safety and human rights matters. He appears before employment tribunals and all levels of the Ontario courts on behalf of employers. He also advises employers on strategic and risk management considerations in employment policy and contracts.

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Emily Kroboth

Emily Kroboth