What Ontario’s state of emergency and stay-at-home order means for businesses during COVID-19

“The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, … that’s why we are taking urgent and decisive action, which includes declaring a provincial emergency and imposing a stay-at-home-order”. – Ontario Premier, Doug Ford

On Tuesday, January 12, 2021, empowered by Section 7.0.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA), the Ontario government declared a second provincial emergency effective Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 am to remain in effect until at least February 11, 2021.

The province outlined the following measures that will take effect:

  • With few exceptions, all social and public outdoor gatherings must not exceed five people.
  • It is compulsory to wear a face mask indoors at places of business.
  • Face masks must be worn outdoors when a distance of at least two meters cannot be maintained between individuals.
  • Non-essential retail businesses such as hardware and alcohol stores are restricted to opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.
  • Essential businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, and restaurants may operate with unrestricted hours.

(Ontario News Release, January 12, 2021)


Businesses that fail to enforce and comply with the measures are subject to the order of enforcement officers and may have their business premises closed temporarily. In addition, according to the province, “all provincial offences officers, including the Ontario provincial police, local police forces, bylaw officers, and provincial workplace inspectors may issue tickets to individuals who fail to comply.” Defaulters could be subject to prosecution and/or a set fine of $500 for individuals or $2500 for businesses. These fines may be applied in addition to fines under Section 22 of up to $25000 per day.

What businesses should do to avoid sanctions

  • Adhere strictly to the 7 a.m. opening and 8 p.m. closing time for permitted businesses.
  • Ensure that any and every individual entering the business premises does so wearing a face mask of face covering,
  • Have posters in several conspicuous places within and outside the business premises with instructions on the need wear a mask and comply with the rules of physical distancing
  • Be prepared to provide masks to individuals who do not have one or have security in place to enforce the regulation.
  • Take account of and document every step taken by the business to remain in compliance with the regulation.

Existing Statutory Protection

The protection and guarantees given to employers and some employees respectively regarding layoffs and constructive dismissal when governed by the Ontario Regulation 228/20 under the Employment Standards Act 2000 (ESA) will continue until July 3, 2021. As such, employees who meet the criteria will continue to be on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave. If an employee is unsure of their status, they should contact a qualified employment lawyer.

Government Support

Businesses seeking support should review the programs offered by Federal, Provincial, and Municipal Governments.

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Federal Response Plan includes the following resources:

Ontario  has the following supports in place for businesses:

Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace

At Hum Law, our role is to provide clear guidance to companies and their Human Resources teams as regulations change across municipalities and regions.

The Hum Law Firm will continue to monitor legal developments in relation to COVID-19 liability protection. We encourage you contact us immediately for legal assistance.

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