Breaking Down Toronto’s Mandatory Mask By-law and What it Means for Employers

Starting July 7, 2020, it is mandatory to wear a mask or face covering in enclosed public places in Toronto. Mandatory use of masks is also referred to as Universal Masking.

The by-law requires all owners/operators of establishments open to the public to do the following:

  • Create a mask policy for your establishment.
  • Communicate the new policy clearly to staff/customers.
  • Train all staff on the requirements of the policy and this bylaw.
  • Ensure staff understand exceptions.
  • Have a copy of your policy ready for inspection by authorized enforcement personnel.
  • Post bylaw signs at all entrances.

With so many changes happening regarding COVID-19 and how businesses are affected. It can be easy to miss certain details. Below is a breakdown of the important details surrounding the new Universal Masking by-law in Toronto.

Effective Date:

The by-law 541-2020 comes into effect on July 7, 2020 (the “By-law“).

Mask or Face Covering Definition

While you, your customers, and your employees may choose to wear a medical mask, the by-law does not require this. It could be a cloth mask or any other face covering as long as it covers the nose, mouth, and chin without gaps.

A face shield, while it might add extra protection, is not accepted under the by-law as it does not sufficiently cover the face. It may be worn with a mask for added protection.

Identifying Exceptions to the By-law

As with any new by-laws that come into effect, there are certain groups of people who are exempt from the mandatory rules:

  • Children under two years of age.
  • Persons with an underlying medical condition which inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering.
  • Persons who are unable to place, remove, or use a mask or face covering without assistance.
  • Employees and operators of the Establishment who are in a designated area not for public access, or within or behind a physical barrier.
  • Persons who are reasonably accommodated by not wearing a mask or face covering under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Evidence of exemption is not required for exempted groups of people.

Temporary removal of masks

Employees and customers are permitted to temporarily remove their mask while receiving services or engaging in an athletic or fitness activity. For example, people can remove their masks while eating or swimming.

Defining Enclosed Public Places

The by-law requires mandatory masks or face coverings in enclosed public places, or indoor locations, which are accessible to the public. There is a full list of establishments that are affected by the by-law here.

A sample list of establishments include, but is not limited to:

  • retail stores, convenience stores, grocery stores, bakeries
  • malls, shopping plazas
  • farmer’s markets (indoor sections)
  • restaurants, bars* (indoors, when permitted to open)
  • libraries, community centres, community service agencies
  • day camps (when indoors)
  • personal service settings
  • faith based settings, art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos
  • event spaces: banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums
  • real estate settings
  • common areas in hotels, motels and short-term rentals
  • entertainment facilities: concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos

Of course, there are certain establishments that are exempt from the by-law. That list includes, but is not limited to:

  • schools
  • post-secondary institutions
  • child care facilities
  • private & public transportation [TTC has its own bylaw]
  • hospitals, independent health facilities
  • offices of regulated health professionals
  • apartment buildings & condominiums, common areas
  • areas that is not enclosed/ indoors (e.g. restaurant patio)
  • businesses that are not open to the public

Signage required

All establishments must print and post a sign outlining the by-law. This sign must be visible to the public at all times at each entrance to the establishment. A sample sign is available to download for free here:

A mask wearing policy is required

To comply with the by-law, your establishment needs to develop a mask wearing policy (the “Policy“) and have it ready and available for inspection when required. A template can be found here:

If you are interested in a more detailed policy that encompasses all of the new COVID-19 changes to ensure you are compliant with all updated employment laws, HUM Law is available to work with you to draft your new policies. Contact us today.

Employee training required

All employees must be trained to enforce the new mask wearing policy at your establishment. Training should include how to respond in various circumstances such as:

  • If a customer arrives without a mask because they forgot or don’t have one.
  • When a customer is exempt from wearing a mask.
  • If a customer wants more information about the policy and bylaw.
  • If a customer becomes aggressive about the new requirement.
  • If a customer wants information about the importance of wearing a mask or the science behind the use of masks.
  • If a customer asks about the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer (70-90% alcohol concentration)
  • If a customer wants to know if they can be fined.


It is an offence not to obey the By-law. A fine may be imposed.

Additional Resources: