Coronavirus resources for workplaces

While regulatory requirements have been removed, Waterloo Region residents are strongly encouraged to continue practicing public health measures and get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Businesses or organizations may continue or establish additional policies or requirements above the minimum standards of the regulations for patrons or employees. To get information to help develop a plan to protect workers, customers and the public from COVID-19, visit the COVID-19 and workplace health and safety web page.

Businesses and organizations may continue to choose to require proof of vaccination but must do so in accordance with the provincial guidance and may benefit from independent legal advice before proceeding. The vaccine certificate with QR code and Verify Ontario app will continue to be made available for those who wish to use them.

Businesses and organizations can submit questions directly to the Ministry of Health.

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Business support

To view business support provided by both the federal and provincial government, please refer to Ontario's Support for Businesses and the Government of Canada's Support for Businesses.

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General principles applicable to any setting

  • Face coverings are still required on public transportation vehicles, bus shelters and transit platforms across the region until the province removes this requirement under the Reopening Ontario Act
  • Masks are still required in select settings:
    • Public transit and bus passenger transport services
    • Hospitals, clinics providing health care services and children’s treatment centers
    • Long-term care and retirement homes
    • Certain residential settings as stated in Schedule 4 of O.Reg 364/20
    • Laboratories and specimen collection centers
    • Shelters
  • While masks are no longer required in most settings, they remain an effective way to protect ourselves, each other, and our community from serious outcomes of COVID-19. Please be respectful and show kindness to anyone who chooses to continue wearing a mask
  • Continue to encourage physical distancing
  • Ministry of Health COVID-19 Screening Tools for Workplaces can be used to screen employees for COVID-19 before they enter the workplace
  • Stick to smaller groups. Smaller is safer. This includes in break rooms, for in-person meetings, etc.
  • Ask employees not to carpool. If they need to carpool, they should limit the number of vehicle occupants, open windows to create airflow and everyone in the vehicle should wear a face covering
  • Remind workers to stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms, even if they are mild. Support employees who need to stay home for isolation or due to symptoms, with access to government support programs or other arrangements
  • Public Health does not provide letters clearing workers to return to work or for negative test results
  • Remind workers returning from travelling abroad to refer to the Canada Travel website for isolation requirements
  • Ensure all high-touch tools and surfaces are cleaned and disinfected regularly with Health Canada approved disinfectants. For detailed information, refer to the Public Health Ontario guide to environmental cleaning
  • Where possible create greater distance between workers, keeping a distance of at least two metres from others
  • Use floor markers, signage and directional arrows to encourage distancing
  • Give workers more opportunities to keep their hands clean, for example by providing soap and water or hand sanitizer if soap is not available
  • Optimize indoor air ventilation
  • Encourage your employees to download the COVID Alert app

Reduce risk of transmission through ventilation

COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person through close contact, for example, in a household, workplace or health care centre.

It is most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • Respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
  • Close, prolonged personal contact
  • Touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

The risk of transmission from aerosols is possible when there are a higher number of people indoors, for a longer period of time, with poor airflow or ventilation. With proper airflow or ventilation, the smaller particles will become diluted and disperse faster, similar to what occurs when you open windows to air out a smoky room.

While aerosols may contribute to the spread of COVID-19, close contact transmission is still the most common and efficient method of infection. Most infections are still linked to person-to-person transmission through close direct contact with someone who was contagious.

HVACs and their filters are designed to reduce airborne pollutants, including virus particles, when they circulate through the system. HVAC filtration can protect people indoors when used with other public health measures. It is important to ensure regular maintenance of the HVAC systems in your home, business, workplace or school.

  • Increase air-exchange settings on the HVAC system, if possible
  • Use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system(s)
  • Keep areas near HVAC inlets and outlets clear
  • Arrange furniture away from air vents and high airflow areas

Have the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems assessed on a regular basis, and ensure they are meeting the expected standard for the facility.

For more information, please review Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems in Buildings and COVID-19 and Ventilation and COVID-19: Workplaces, Schools and Other Indoor Spaces.

PCR Testing

PCR testing is no longer widely available to the public. Symptomatic employees should take the COVID-19 self-assessment and follow the directions provided regarding testing and isolation.

Rapid Antigen Testing

Positive Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) results do not require PCR/rapid molecular confirmatory testing. RATs can be used for:

  • Screen testing
    • Screen testing is frequent (at least once a week), systematic testing of people who are symptomatic and without known exposure to COVID-19 case with the goal of identifying cases that are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic
  • For people with symptoms
  • Asymptomatic testing
    • If an asymptomatic individual without a known exposure to a COVID-19 case decides to complete a RAT outside of routine screening programs (for example prior to a social event/gathering/visit in a non-highest risk setting) then they should complete it as close to the event as possible (e.g. on the same day, ideally within a few hours of the event) and understand false negatives are common

Continue to follow all public health guidance to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. For more information, visit the COVID-19 Assessment and Testing Centres in Waterloo Region page.

For more information about Rapid Testing, check the following sites:

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Case in the workplace

Workplaces are encouraged to have health and safety policies and procedures.

Public Health will no longer be following up directly with any cases or contacts identified in settings such as workplaces, events, public settings, and sports teams. Cases will be advised to notify their workplaces and other settings themselves.

High-risk contacts include:

  • A high-risk contact is anyone who came into close contact of a COVID-19 case within the 48 hours prior to symptom onset if symptomatic or 48 hours prior to the test date if asymptomatic, and until the case started self-isolating.
  • A close contact is anyone in close proximity (less than two meters) to the case for at least 15 minutes or for multiple short periods of time without appropriate measures such as masking, physical distancing and use of personal protective equipment.
  • Employees who are identified as high-risk contacts should be notified and directed to follow public health guidance (page 19) regarding self-isolation and/or self-monitoring and be provided the 'how to self-isolate' handout.

Those who weren't present on the same days or who have no known contact of any kind with the case do not need to take additional actions, and should continue to follow routine public health measures.

As an employer, you are legally obligated under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to ensure that you, your workers and your workplace are in compliance with the Act. Failure to comply with the OHSA, puts your workers’ health and safety at risk.

Resources:

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COVID-19 Vaccine

The Province of Ontario has information on their website about COVID-19 vaccines and workplace health and safety, including information about workplace vaccination supports and policies.

Local public health units follow the guidance as outlined by the Ministry of Health. We are unable to provide specific advice to businesses or organizations regarding policy decisions for restricting access to their organization or event(s) based on vaccination status. If you are seeking legal advice about policy decisions in regards to individuals who are not vaccinated, we would recommend that you consult with a lawyer.

Vaccine policy development

Employers have an obligation to maintain a safe work environment for their workers. To help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, a workplace vaccination policy is an important measure employers can implement, to protect their workers and the public. Vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the best ways to protect employees. 

The workplace policy should adhere to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code and Privacy laws.

A vaccination policy and getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 does not replace the need for following effective and proven COVID-19 public health measures. Local employers must apply all COVID-19 prevention measures for their sector outlined in provincial guidelines and Region of Waterloo Public Health guidance.

Key components of a workplace vaccination policy

  • Identify scope and purpose of your COVID-19 vaccination policy including the risks of COVID-19
  • Explain who the policy applies to – employees, contractors, volunteers, students, etc.
  • Consider a policy that also applies to customers/patrons
  • Indicate the policy may change as the pandemic evolves and/or legislation or public health advice changes.
  • Specify a date when employees must demonstrate compliance with various elements of the workplace policy.
  • Outline the potential consequences for employees who do not fulfill the requirements of the policy.
  • Have a clear communication plan to inform employees about the policy.
  • Identify key contact(s) at your organization to answer questions about the policy, accommodations, or for more information about how to comply with the policy.
  • Indicate if employees are required to provide proof of vaccination.
  • List alternative options for employees who decline to get vaccinated for reasons protected by Ontario’s Human Rights Code including medical exemptions such as:
    • Completing a vaccination education course, with a signed declaration stating that they have reviewed and understood the content. The vaccination education course should include information on:
      • How the COVID-19 vaccines work
      • Vaccine safety related to the development of the COVID-19 vaccines
      • The benefits of vaccination against COVID-19
      • Risks of not being vaccinated against COVID-19
      • Possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccination
      • Implement testing strategy for Rapid Point of Care antigen testing for non-vaccinated employees
Strategies to increase vaccine uptake in your workplace

Employers can encourage employees to get vaccinated and support increased vaccination uptake by:

  • Leading by example and get fully vaccinated.
  • Sharing your reasons for getting the vaccine.
  • Consider recruiting workplace vaccine champions to promote benefits of getting vaccinated.
  • Posting information about nearby vaccination clinics.
  • Offering flexible work hours/paid time off to go get vaccinated.
  • Considering the use of incentives for voluntary disclosure of vaccination status.
  • Encourage employees to visit our website to learn more about the vaccines and how to get a vaccine.
  • Host an on-site vaccination clinic for your employees.

Workplace vaccine clinic

If you are interested in hosting a vaccine clinic at your workplace, please email WorkPlaceVaccineClinic@regionofwaterloo.ca

Please email only if you:

  • Have a business or represent a business or organization within the Region of Waterloo
  • Are the representative for the business or organization within the Region of Waterloo
  • Have assessed the need for vaccinations amongst your employees (e.g., surveyed staff to determine the number interested in receiving a vaccine at a workplace clinic)

Region of Waterloo is now offering walk-ins for all doses at vaccination clinics during operating hours. Pharmacies across the region are also providing walk-ins for all doses. More information about the Region’s vaccination clinics can be found on the Region of Waterloo Get a Vaccine webpage.

Vaccine resources for employers

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Workplace guidance

If your workplace is not listed below, please consult Ontario's Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace for sector specific guidance and guidelines for developing a COVID-19 workplace safety plan. To find companies that sell personal protective equipment (PPE) please consult the Workplace PPE Supplier Directory.

Child care centres

For information and operational guidance during COVID-19, read the Ministry of Education’s Operational Guidance for Child Care During COVID-19 Outbreak. Child care centres should continue to monitor for new guidance from the Ministry of Education or Ministry of Health.

Owners/operators of day camps can consult the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Camps for information and operational guidance during COVID-19.

Camp operators should continue to monitor for new guidance from the Ministry of Health: COVID-19 Guidance for the Health Sector.

For more information, please check the Resources for Child Care Centres and Day Camps page.

Employers of temporary foreign workers

COVID-19 is highly infectious and continues to easily spread within households or communal housing. Consequently, the Federal and Provincial governments have outlined requirements for employers of temporary foreign workers to reduce the risks to workers and help employers maintain a healthy workforce.

Employers of temporary foreign workers are responsible for thoroughly reviewing government directives in the documents below and monitor for updates:

Requirements direct employers to contact local public health officials when:

  • A worker shows symptoms of COVID-19
  • A worker tests positive on a Rapid Access Test (RAT)
  • Expecting a new worker to arrive

Section 22 Order:

Although the Section 22 Order addressed to all persons who employ and house IAWs in the Region of Waterloo was rescinded as of April 29, 2022, it is strongly recommended to follow the best practices outlined in the Provincial Outbreak Guidance for IAWs, including:

  • Daily active screening for all persons, including temperature checks for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure history, regardless of vaccination status in accordance with the COVID-19 Screening Tool for Businesses and Organizations (Screening Workers)  
  • Implement control measures to reduce the risk to their workers, including the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), specifically face masks for anyone indoors in the workplace.
  • Continue to plan for IAWs to receive COVID-19 vaccines including booster doses based on eligibility.
  • Develop and update a COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan and Arrival/Quarantine Plan prior to IAWs arrival.

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Additional resources

  • Waterloo EDC
  • If you have questions about what will be open or impacts to your business or employment, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659
  • For the latest updates from the Government of Ontario, please visit the Ontario Newsroom

Frequently asked questions

What happens if the individual was at work while infectious?

There is now community spread of COVID-19 in the Region of Waterloo, so all interactions should be treated as a potential risk of exposure. If a person was at work while infectious, Public Health staff will determine if they posed any additional risk to the workplace than what exists in the general community.

Please Note: not all cases result in exposures. A transient interaction (e.g., walking past someone who tested positive or is symptomatic) does not pose an increased risk. There is also no increased risk of exposure if the person was not at work while infectious.  

What should I tell an employee to do if they fail our workplace screening?

Screening should occur before or when a worker enters the workplace at the beginning of their day or shift, or when an essential visitor arrives. At minimum, the questions in the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Screening Tools for Workplaces should be used to screen individuals for COVID-19 before they are allowed entry into the workplace.

If an employee fails the screening, they should be advised they should not enter the workplace (including any outdoor, or partially outdoor, workplaces). They should go home to self-isolate immediately and follow the instructions provided through the COVID-19 self assessment.

Does Public Health notify a workplace when a confirmed case of COVID-19 has been at the workplace?

Public Health will no longer be following up directly with any cases or contacts identified in settings such as workplaces, events, public settings, and sports teams. Cases will be advised to notify their workplaces and other settings themselves.

Where can I find vaccine information for my business or event?

For more information and resources about the COVID-19 Vaccine please check the COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs page. Information on developing a vaccine policy for covered organizations or other organizations can be found in the Ministry of Health’s Resource Guide.

General workplace resources

Physical distancing

Personal protective equipment

Proper hygiene and cleaning

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