Businesses and Organizations Take Notice! New Mandatory Requirement to apply COVID-19 Screening for Workers and Essential Visitors


Recently, the Ontario Government amended Ontario Regulation 364/20 under the Reopening Ontario (A Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. Among other things, the amendments require businesses and organizations to comply with any advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Ministry of Health on screening for COVID-19, including the use of a new screening tool for all workers and essential visitors.  On September 25, 2020, the Ministry of Health recommended that businesses screen for COVID-19 workers. This “recommendation” is a legal requirement under the amended Ontario Regulations 364/20. Under the Ministry of Health direction, workers includes contractors, students, volunteers and essential visitors such as service providers. Workers does not include patrons and customers; however, some service providers, like food and drink establishments and tour and guide service providers, are required to record the name and contact information of some patrons and customers for contact tracing purposes.

The Ontario Ministry of Health has published recommendations for COVID-19 screening. The recommendation indicates that screening should occur before or when a worker enters the workplace at the start of their day or shift, or when an essential visitor arrives. Anyone who does not pass screening should inform their supervisor as soon as possible. The worker should not be permitted to enter the workplace and should self-isolate and call their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario. If the worker passes the screening requirement, the worker is permitted to enter the workplace but should be instructed to report any symptoms or changes immediately.

Businesses and organizations should develop guidelines and procedures concerning record keeping and retention of personal information. The Ontario Ministry of Health’s recommendation does not prescribe how long organizations and businesses need to keep records and whether electronic copies are sufficient. We are continuing to make efforts to obtain information on the business’ and organizations’ record-keeping obligations. For now, we recommend that, in light of privacy concerns, hard or electronic copies of the records be kept confidential and secure, and retained only for as long as is reasonably necessary for the purpose for which they were collected.  We note that the Ministry currently requires bars and restaurants to keep client logs for a period of 30 days (for contact tracing purposes).  As such, it would likely be reasonable for employers to keep screening records for the same period of period.

For more information, please contact a member of our employment law team.

Prepared by: JP Zubec and Neelofar Haseeb (articling student)