By: Shana Nodel J.D., Principal Lawyer
If you have been watching or reading the news, you will know that Ontario is one of many places around the world that is starting to lift restrictions. It seems that with each week comes another list of businesses that can open up or expand their services. Today, as per Premier Doug Ford's announcement last week, Ontario's first phase of its reopening plan begins. Click here for a Detailed List of Stage 1 Openings.
The initial reaction from hearing the news was obvious excitement. There is no doubt that many business owners want to open up; they want to welcome their teams back and they want to service their customers and nurture the relationships that have helped their businesses thrive. The question however, is how can that be done safely all while minimizing risk?
The nature of a business and the industry that it serves will determine how a business owner navigates this new territory; where they will have to balance public health and safety concerns, government regulation compliance all while trying to minimize the risk of liability.
Yes, your business policies and procedures will have to be changed, and will require ongoing evolution. In particular, employers have a duty under Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) legislation to protect the health and safety of their workers and failure to ensure a safe workplace can lead to OH&S liability, including fines and penalties and, in serious cases, criminal prosecutions. To meet their obligations, it is imperative that employers update and implement new health and safety policies and practices in their workplaces to address the risks associated with COVID-19. Employers will also want to consider developing an infection prevention and control plan to help manage symptomatic employees, customers or other individuals in the workplace who may become ill with symptoms of COVID-19. In addition to adapting workplace health and safety policies to the "new normal", employers will also want to consider updating policies around things such as, travel, time off and work from home.
Additionally, employers may want to consider developing and implementing customized disclaimers and waivers for their business that are robust and yet easy to understand. This will be particularly true for those businesses that invite and rely on public attendance such as fitness facilities, entertainment venues and tourist attractions. The assumption of risk doctrine will undoubtedly become a hot-topic in the coming months and years and it is unclear as to if and how the Court's view on this issue will change as it relates to Covid-19.
As you may have noticed, there is not a "one size fits all" approach. What is vital however, is that your business has access to professionals that can guide and provide custom tailored solutions to help minimize risk, and control costs as you navigate the complexity of reopening safely. As always, we are here and ready to help if you need us.
Stay safe and healthy,
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