Some Common Questions from Businesses as Ontario Starts to Re-Open

Our firm is starting to get some repeat questions as we inch (shouldn’t it be cm, as we’re Canadian) towards some kind of re-opening of the Ontario economy.

As such, we’re happy to answer some of the most popular questions here:

  1. Can an employee refuse to return to work? 

Provided the Employer has a workplace that is socially distanced and employees can do their job safely, then an Employee’s refusal to return to work could be considered a resignation.   Employees need to think carefully about that as resignation does not generally allow one to collect EI.

2. Can I carry on my business using curb side pickup?

If your business is specifically listed in the April 3, 2020 and  May 1, 2020 Ontario list of essential workplaces, then you can carry on curbside pickup.

If your business is not listed, you can do delivery, however, you cannot do curbside pickup. 

3. Do I have to socially distance within the workplace?

Yes.   This will require a lot of planning by employers.   Is the kitchen closed?  In a shared washroom situation, how many people are allowed in it? How do you control that?

The employees have a right to a safe workspace, so complying with Covid-19 precautions is key to being able to remain open once you are open.  

4. Do employees have the right to demand they continue to work from home?

Generally the answer is no.   If the employee reported to a physical workplace pre-pandemic rules, then that is the basis of their employment and the employee cannot unilaterally demand the right to work from home.

5. Will this ever end?

If by this, you mean being locked down and having a restricted economy, the answer is yes.  We don’t know when, but at sometime in the future, businesses will be completely reopened, though likely not the same way they used to be.

As with any legal Blog, the above is not legal advice.  If you have a question about your specific business contact a Business Lawyer for advice.

It’s great to see the start of re-opening of the Ontario economy.  We’ve all given up so much to get to this point, lets ensure we don’t take two steps backwards by ignoring all lessons we’ve learned.   So people, wash hands, use a mask when you’re inside a building that is not your house and socially distance, let’s get the economy moving again !

Inga B. Andriessen JD