COVID-19 Vaccination Policy: Information for Employers

Local employers are encouraged to develop and implement a workplace vaccination policy to help protect their employees and the public from COVID-19.

  • NOTE: Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination is now required to enter select, non-essential businesses and indoor settings in Ontario. Learn more

Watch this Health Unit Video for more information.

The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect your workplace from the risks of COVID-19. It is safe and highly effective at reducing virus spread and protecting against serious illness.

A workplace policy will help encourage more people to get vaccinated and allow people to feel more confident and safer in their return to work.

Workplaces can help encourage vaccination by creating a supportive environment that makes it easier for workers to get vaccinated, and by providing information from trusted sources.

During a recent media information session, HKPR Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Natalie Bocking encouraged local employers to implement a vaccination policy to support their employees getting vaccinated: Businesses and COVID-19 Safety Measures – YouTube

Establishing a Vaccination Policy for Your Workplace

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 should implement to protect their workers and the public.

Assess your workplace risk of transmission by considering the following:

  • Does your workforce have a high vaccination rate?
  • Can workers keep at least two metres apart while performing their work?
  • Are workers required to be in close contact with others?
  • How long and how often are workers in close contact with other workers or patrons?
  • Does your workplace have physical barriers when workers cannot keep distance from each other, good ventilation and personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect workers?
  • Do you have workers who may be at risk for severe illness from COVID-19? Some people may have reduced immunity due to age, pre-existing health conditions or medical treatments.
  • Is your workplace able to offer alternative work for people who require accommodation, for example remote work?

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

Please note: the information provided on this webpage does not contain legal advice and should not be relied on or treated as legal advice; those for whom these recommendations are intended may seek their own legal advice for their specific circumstance.

Key Components in a Vaccination Policy

1. Identify the scope and purpose.

Explain purpose of the policy including the risks of COVID-19. Vaccination against COVID-19 is one of the best ways to protect workers. The Delta variant of the coronavirus is more contagious, with greater risk for severe illness and hospitalization.

Explain who the policy applies to. Will the policy apply to all workers, contractors, and/or agency staff? Is there a separate policy for customers?

Have a clear communication plan to inform workers about the policy.

2. List action steps workers must take.

When necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19, workplace policies should require workers to provide proof of vaccination, with vaccines approved by Health Canada or the World Health Organization. Alternatively, workers may need to:

Indicate that they have a medical exemption, including if the reasons are temporary or permanent. The medical exemption should be written by a licenced doctor or nurse practitioner and does not need to include the reason for the exemption.

Complete a vaccination education course, with a signed declaration stating that they understand the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination. 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; and
  • Possible side effects of COVID-19 vaccination.

3. Set deadlines for when the actions must be taken.

Specify a reasonable date when workers must demonstrate compliance with the workplace policy.

4. List available supports for vaccination.

Demonstrate your commitment to supporting workers to get vaccinated. Ways to support workers to get vaccinated include:

  • Providing vaccine information from credible sources or translated resources
  • Supporting vaccine champions to initiate conversations with their peers
  • Providing paid leave to get vaccinated
  • Reminding workers that they are entitled to up to three paid sick days, if they have side effects from the vaccine
  • Offering incentives such as gift cards, prizes or company swag
  • Hosting an on-site vaccination clinic

5. Provisions for Unvaccinated Workers

  • Your policy should list alternative options for workers who decline to get vaccinated for reasons protected by the Human Rights Act, or who are unable to complete their vaccination series for medical reasons. Some options to consider include:
  • Use of additional PPE, frequent COVID-19 testing, worker relocation, and modified work or reassignments.
  • In the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers (who have only received one dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series) are not be permitted to work in the outbreak area. Workers without vaccination records should be assumed to be unvaccinated.
  • If reassignment is not possible, consider if unvaccinated workers may use vacation or unpaid leave until it is safe for them to return to the workplace.

6. Non-Compliance

Outline the potential consequences for workers who do not fulfill the requirements of the policy.

7. Privacy considerations

The policy should specify how individual vaccination status of employees will be used by employers to mitigate the health-related risks of COVID-19.

Information about workers’ vaccination information must be protected in accordance with applicable privacy legislation. Knowing your workers’ vaccination status may be important to help you take appropriate action quickly, in the event of COVID-19 cases in your workplace, to protect employees, their families, and the general public.

When collecting information about a worker’s vaccination status:

  • Identify ways to safeguard workers’ personal health information.
  • Limit information collected to the worker’s name and date of vaccination for each dose.
  • Keep worker vaccination information separate from their personnel file.
  • Ensure personal health/vaccination information is kept in a secure manner and only used when required.

8. Staff contact

Identify who at your organization staff should contact with questions about the policy, to request accommodation, or for more information how to comply with the policy. The policy should also indicate the person to whom workers should provide proof of vaccination.

Reopening Businesses and Services – Current Restrictions

Find out the latest COVID-19 rules, as Ontario starts to lift restrictions. Click here for a timetable of what to expect in coming months, based on COVID-19 cases staying low and other key data remaining good.

Latest Situation
  • NEW! Capacity limits for outdoor organized public events (such as outdoor parades, outdoor memorial services, and other similar events) are now removed. However, masks must be worn at these events if two metre physical distancing cannot be maintained. NOTE: Limits on the number of people who can gather for outdoor social gatherings remains at no more than 100 people.
  • Capacity limits and physical distancing rules are no longer in place for restaurants, bars, gyms, casinos, bingo hall, and indoor meeting and event spaces. These are all settings where patrons must provide proof of vaccination to enter. Read the specific regulations here.
  • Other select businesses can see also have their capacity limits and physical distancing rules removed if they choose to require proof of vaccination for customers/patrons. The businesses that can opt in to this include: personal care services (barber shops, salons, etc.); indoor areas of museums, galleries, historical sites and other attractions; indoor areas of amusement parks, boat tours’ and indoor tour and guide services.
  • Places of worship and other locations where a wedding, funeral or religious service, rite or ceremony takes place can also choose to implement proof of vaccination requirements for these types of events. In exchange, capacity limits and physical distancing rules would also be lifted.
  • Capacity limits remain in place for other stores and retail settings. This will be reviewed in coming months to see if they can be lifted.
  • Specific COVID-19 restrictions can still be put in place on a local/regional basis if needed.
  • Social gatherings limits remain at up to 25 people indoors and up to 100 people at an outdoor gathering.
  • The province has announced plans/timetable to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions by March 2022. This will be a slow and gradual process based on COVID-19 case rates and other key health care indicators (hospital admissions, ICU cases, etc.) staying stable and low. The Ontario government’s full announcement on the timing and gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions is available here.

On This Page

Proof of Vaccination to be Required in Certain Settings
  • Ontario requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend select businesses and indoor settings. These settings include: restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery/takeout), nightclubs, meeting/event spaces, gyms/fitness clubs, sporting events, casinos/bingo halls/gaming establishments, concerts, theatres, cinemas, and racing venues. Retail stores, grocery stores, banks and other essential businesses are not included in this new requirement.
  • Proof of vaccine may also now be required in other businesses. Personal care services (barber shops, salons, etc.), indoor areas of museums, galleries, historical sites and other attractions, indoor areas of amusement parks, boat tours, and indoor tour and guide services can choose to ask customers/patrons for proof of vaccination. In exchange, capacity limits and physical distancing rules in these businesses can be lifted.
  • Proof of vaccination rules may be lifted early in 2022 if the situation with COVID-19 activity in Ontario remains favourable.
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Specific Rules

Read on for more details on current COVID-19 restrictions.

Indoor and Outdoor Gatherings
  • Up to 25 people are allowed at indoor social gatherings and organized public events.
  • A maximum of 100 people is permitted for outdoor social gatherings.
  • Capacity limits are removed for any outdoor organized event (such as outdoor parades, outdoor memorial services and other similar events), but masks must be worn if a two-metre physical distancing cannot be maintained with others outside your household.
  • Retirement homes are exempt from gathering limits.
  • Stay home if sick. Do not attend any gatherings. Get tested if you have symptoms or are worried you were in contact with COVID-19. Click here for additional advice about gathering for holidays and celebrations.
  • Masks must be worn at organized indoor public events. Physical distancing (staying 2 metres apart from others outside your household) is also required at organized indoor public events.
  • Masks are not required to be worn at social gatherings inside private homes, but face coverings are required in common areas (hallways) in multi-unit dwellings like apartments, condominiums, etc. Wearing a mask indoors regardless of where you are can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • Ensure you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Ask others attending the gathering what their vaccination status is, so you can take appropriate precautions such as wearing a mask and staying two metres apart from others outside your household.
  • To reduce your risk of COVID-19, continue to practise physical distancing at any gathering you attend.
  • COVID-19 is less likely to be spread outdoors than in, so consider meeting others outdoors. If meeting inside, open windows and doors to allow for good ventilation.
  • Continue to stop the spread of COVID-19. Click here additional COVID-19 prevention measures.
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Religious Services, Weddings and Funerals
  • Indoor and outdoor weddings, funerals and religious services are allowed.
  • Places of worship and other locations where a wedding, funeral or religious service, rite or ceremony takes place can choose to implement proof of vaccination requirements for these types of events. In exchange, capacity limits and physical distancing rules would be lifted.
  • If proof of vaccination is not required, capacity at these services is limited to the number of people who can distance at least two metres.
  • Masks/face coverings must be worn inside. Mask use is also recommended outdoors if you cannot stay 2 metres apart from someone outside your household
  • Drive-in services, rites or ceremonies can still be offered
  • Consider livestreaming services for those who are unable or do not feel comfortable attending in-person
  • Receptions are permitted, with up to 25 people indoors and a maximum of 100 people outdoors.
  • Click here for more information on COVID-19 prevention measures at places of worship.
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Businesses and Services
  • All businesses must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place that is also posted in a visible location for people to see. Click here for a sample from the Health Unit. You can also use Ontario’s Workplace Safety Plan Builder (a free interactive tool to make it easier to create and update your COVID-19 safety plan).
  • Proof of vaccination is required to enter certain businesses.
  • Businesses must ensure anyone entering their premise wears a mask/face covering properly (unless exempted) and stays two metres apart from others
  • Cleaning and disinfecting of the business premise should be done as frequently as needed to maintain sanitary conditions.
  • Capacity at essential and non-essential businesses, stores and malls remains limited to the number of people who can maintain 2 metres physical distance. The maximum number of customers must be posted in a visible location. For a handy resource to help you figure out store capacity limits, use the Retail Council of Canada’s Store Capacity Calculator.
  • Capacity limits and physical distancing rules no longer apply for restaurants and bars. However, patrons/customers dining inside must provide proof of vaccination to enter. Restaurants must also continue to record the name and contact information of every customer who dines in.
  • Indoor food or drink establishments where dance facilities are provided, including nightclubs and ‘restobars’, can open up to 25% capacity or a maximum of 250 people (whichever is less). Capacity limits at these venues will be reviewed by the Province and may be lifted in mid-November.
  • All businesses must ensure physical distancing is in place for any customers lined up outdoors. Lineups inside are not allowed, unless the business ensures customers wear a mask and stay at least 2 metres apart from each other.
  • All staff/employees must be screened for COVID-19 prior to entry. Consider using the online Employee screening tool or download a copy (PDF) from the Ontario government website.
  • Signs must be posted in a prominent location, informing customers/patrons to screen themselves for COVID-19 before entering. You can also use the online screening tool designed for customers or download a copy (PDF) from the Ontario government website.
  • All personal care services (like hair salons and barbershops) are open, including those that require the removal of a face covering. Click here for full details.
  • Gyms and fitness clubs can reopen for indoor use, with all capacity and physical distancing limits removed. Patrons/members must provide proof of vaccination (or valid exemption) to enter. Gyms and fitness clubs must continue to record the name and contact information of every customer who enters the facility for the purpose of COVID-19 contact tracing.
  • Capacity limits are removed for the following settings:
    • Concert venues, theatres and cinemas.
    • Spectator areas of facilities for sports and recreational fitness (would not include gyms, personal training).
    • Meeting and event spaces (indoor meeting and event spaces will still need to limit capacity to the number that can maintain physical distancing).
    • Horse racing tracks, car racing tracks, and other similar venues.
    • Commercial film and television productions with studio audiences.
    • IMPORTANT NOTE: Other public health and workplace safety measures remain in place at these venues, including wearing of masks, screening and collecting of patron information to support contact tracing. Physical distancing requirements are being removed (with limited exceptions).
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Personal Care Services
  • Personal care services, including those provided by hair salons and barbershops, manicure and pedicure salons, aesthetician services, piercing services, tanning salons, spas and tattoo studios, can now have their capacity limits and physical distancing rules lifted. To do this, they must require proof of vaccination for customers.
  • If a personal care service does not opt for proof of vaccine, the number of customers allowed inside the business is limited to the number that can maintain 2 metres physical distance. A sign must be posted in a prominent location in the business that states the capacity limit.
  • Services that require the removal of a face covering are allowed.
  • Oxygen bars remain closed.
  • Persons who provide personal care services in the business must wear appropriate personal protective equipment (medical masks that cover nose, mouth and chin; goggles that provide eye protection).
  • Appointments are required. No walk-ins are allowed.
  • Employees and customers must be actively screened for COVID-19 before they enter the premises. Use the online employee screening tool (or download a copy) and the web-based version for customers (or \download a copy). You can also put up this COVID-19 screening poster for customers.
  • All personal care settings must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place that is also posted in a visible location for people to see. Click here for a sample.
  • Any music played inside the business must be set at a level that allows for a normal conversation to take place.
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Attractions
  • Capacity limits and physical distancing rules can be lifted for certain attractions if they choose to require proof of vaccination for patrons/customers. This option applies to indoor areas of museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens, rural exhibitions, festivals, fairs and similar attractions
  • If these attractions do not choose to require proof of vaccination, capacity limits stay in place. Currently, indoor capacity for a seated event is limited to 50% of the usual seating capacity or 1,000 people (whichever is less).
  • NEW! Outdoor capacity limits are now removed for ski hills and other outdoor recreational amenities, as well as festivals and the outdoor areas of fairs and rural exhibitions.
  • Reservations are required for indoor and outdoor events.
  • Proof of vaccination is required in outdoor settings where the normal maximum capacity is 20,000 people or more to help keep these venues safe for patrons
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Activities and Amenities
  • Outdoor amenities like golf courses, tennis courts, skateboarding parks, sports fields, and basketball courts remain open with restrictions. Horse riding is also permitted, with restrictions. Anyone using these amenities must stay two metres apart from anyone outside their household.
  • Curling clubs can open, with physical distancing and other requirements in place. All curlers must be actively screened for COVID-19. Masks must be worn when entering, sitting down or walking around; masks do not need to be worn when playing curling if you can maintain 2 metres distance from others. Spectators must wear masks.
  • Indoor pools are allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, and with other restrictions in place. Outdoor pools, splash pads, spray pads, whirlpools, wading pools and water slides remain open, but with capacity limited to permit physical distancing of 2 metres.
  • Short-term rentals such as cottages, cabins, and resorts remain open. Along with outdoor pools, indoor pools, communal steam rooms, saunas/whirlpools and indoor fitness centres/recreational facilities at these sites are also allowed to reopen with restrictions.
  • Seasonal trailer parks can operate as usual, with no limit on how long you can stay there. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people, while indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people. Outdoor pools can open (but must first be inspected by a Public Health Inspector with the Health Unit).
  • Hotels, motels and shared rental accommodations remain open. Amenities like indoor pools, communal steam rooms, saunas/whirlpools and indoor fitness centres/recreational facilities at these sites are also allowed to reopen with restrictions
  • Marinas can be open, including most indoor amenities. Some restrictions remain in place.
  • Community centres and multi-purpose facilities can reopen with restrictions
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Day and Overnight Camps
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Garage/Yard Sales

Garage and yard sales are allowed, but with the following COVID-19 restrictions in place: 

  • Up to 100 people are allowed for outdoor sales at one time 
  • People should keep 2 metres apart from anyone outside their household
  • It’s best to display sale items outdoors, not inside garages or other enclosed structures, as the risk of spreading COVID-19 outdoors is lower. If you decide to display items inside, no more than 25 people are allowed inside at one time (physical distancing must be maintained) 
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer and recommend its use 
  • Masks must be worn inside for any sales (except if all members of the same household) and are recommended outdoors if people cannot maintain 2 metres (6 feet) physical distance from anyone outside their household
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Vaccination Policies for Certain Settings

Certain businesses will need to have a vaccination policy for high-risk settings. The vaccination policy took effect on Sept. 7, 2021 and included employees/staff, contractors, students and volunteers.

At a minimum, the policy will require individuals to provide proof of one of three things:

  • Full vaccination against COVID-19;
  • A medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19; or
  • Completion of a COVID-19 vaccination educational session.

Anyone who does not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing. These settings will be required to track and report on the implementation of their policies to the provincial government. This is similar to the vaccination policy requirements currently in place for long-term care homes.

Vaccination policies apply to the following high-risk settings:

  • Hospitals and home/community care service providers  
  • Schools
  • Post-secondary institutions
  • Licensed retirement homes
  • Women’s shelters
  • Congregate group homes and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities, children’s treatment centres, and other services for children with special needs, and licensed children’s residential settings.

Even if your workplace is not covered by these requirements, local employers are encouraged to develop and implement a workplace vaccination policy to help protect their employees and the public from COVID-19.

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Additional Resources:

Click on the following links for additional support:

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Workplace COVID-19 Video Resources

Watch these videos for tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.


From the HKPR Youtube Channel

Visit us on Youtube for more videos, or click here for general COVID-19 prevention videos.


COVID-19 Vaccines


Workplace COVID-19 Prevention



If You’re Exposed to COVID-19

COVID-19 High-Risk Contact

Testing Positive for COVID-19: Now What?


Proof of Vaccinations – Dealing With Difficult Situations

Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination – Staying Safe

Non-Violent Crisis Intervention Training

Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Spaces

Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Follow this guidance on cleaning and disinfecting in public spaces and workplaces in Ontario.


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What you should know
Icon image of a tub of cleaning supplies
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces twice per day
  • In addition to routine cleaning and disinfecting, high-touch surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected twice per day and when visibly dirty.
  • High-touch surfaces include, but are not limited to: doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, toilet handles, counters, hand rails, touch screen surfaces and keypads.
  • In addition to routine cleaning and disinfecting, check with your organization for any specific protocols for cleaning and disinfecting for COVID-19.
Select products
Cleaners
  • Break down grease and remove organic material from the surface.
  • If used separately, always use cleaner to clean the surface area before applying disinfectants.
  • Can be purchased with cleaner and disinfectant combined in a single product. These products are called ‘cleaner disinfectants.’
Icon of a sponge filled with bubbles
Disinfectants
Icon of a spray bottle of disinfectant
Disinfectant Wipes
  • Have combined cleaners and disinfectants in the same wipe.
  • May become dry due to fast drying properties. They should not be used if they become dry.
  • Ensure surfaces are saturated with cleaner disinfectant while using wipes.
  • Not recommended for heavily soiled surfaces.
Prepare products for use
  • Where possible, use pre-mixed solution.
  • Read and follow manufacturer’s instructions to:
    • properly prepare solution
    • allow adequate contact time for disinfectant to kill germs (see product label for specific contact time)
    • wear gloves when handling cleaning or disinfecting products (including wipes)
    • wear any other personal protective equipment recommended by the manufacturer.
Watch our video on YouTube

This information is based on the Public Health Ontario fact sheet: COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings

How to Clean/Disinfect a Carpet to Eliminate COVID-19

The best option is to cover the carpet with vinyl or other material that can be easily cleaned and disinfected. If that’s not possible, do the following:

  • For regular cleaning and disinfecting, use a steam cleaner (the temperature is high enough to eliminate COVID)
  • For situations involving a biological spill, follow these steps:
    • Gather disposable towels, cleaners, disinfectants and other supplies you need to deal with the spill.
    • Don’t allow access to area until the spill is cleaned, disinfected and completely dry.
    • Put on gloves and facial protection (such as mask and eye protection, or face shield). If there is a possibility of splashing, wear a gown too.
    • Mop up as much of the spill as possible with disposable towels
    • Disinfect the entire spill area with a Health Canada approved disinfectant, allowing it to stand for the length of time of time recommended by the manufacturer. Do not use spray for this step.
    • In a waste receptacle, safely dispose of the gloves, disposable towels, and other materials used to wipe up the spill.
    • Remove gloves and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
    • Steam clean the carpet.
Additional Resources:

Download and print resources below:

Hand Hygiene/Respiratory Etiquette at Work

Health is in your hands! Protect yourself, your staff and customers from COVID-19. Here’s what to do:


  • Provide hand sanitizer and tissues at all entrances and work stations 
  • Encourage employees to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Encourage everyone at work to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Put the used tissue in the garbage.
  • If someone doesn’t have a tissue, they should cough or sneeze into their upper sleeve or elbow, never their hands.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering.
  • Encourage and provide time for people to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

Download and print resources below:

Image of Are You Sick? AODA compliant poster – click to download
Image of Are You Sick? AODA compliant poster – click to download

Are You Sick?
Poster

Image of Attention Staff AODA compliant poster – click to download
Image of Attention Staff AODA compliant poster – click to download

Attention Staff
Poster

Image of Attention Visitors AODA compliant poster - click to download
Image of Attention Visitors AODA compliant poster – click to download

Attention Visitors
Poster

Image of Attention Shoppers AODA compliant poster – click to download
Image of Attention Shoppers AODA compliant poster – click to download

Attention Shoppers
Poster

Watch our videos on YouTube

Use of Masks and Face Coverings Inside Public Spaces

Currently, masks and face coverings must now be worn inside all public places across the province, including businesses, facilities and workplaces. Limited exemptions are in place, including for age, medical reasons, and special accommodations.

The provincial masking requirement is made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act (specifically Ontario Regulation 263/20 – Rules for Areas in Stage 2 and Ontario Regulation 364/20 – Rules for Areas in Stage 3). The aim of the directive is to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

For more details, please read the the following FAQs and resources. You can also contact the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020 or info@hkpr.on.ca for additional direction.

If you have additional questions about mask use at your business or workplace, refer to your COVID-19 Safety Plan, consult with your Joint Health and Safety Committee, or contact the Ministry of Labour at 1-877-202-0008.


Who is Affected?

If you own, operate or are responsible for a business or facility that is indoors and open to the public and currently operating under Ontario’s plan for reopening, you must have rules in place to inform people about the need to wear a mask or face covering before entering your establishment. Certain exemptions do apply on the use of masks in these indoor settings.

Most indoor settings are covered under the rules, including businesses, stores, malls/plazas, restaurants, places of worship, public libraries, real estate open houses, personal care services (relating to the hair or body), food courts, fitting rooms, driving instruction services, sports and recreation facilities (like gyms, yoga/dance studios, and fitness facilities), children’s camps, movie theatres, performing arts centres, casinos/bingo halls/gaming establishments, and racing venues, cultural centres (museums, art galleries, etc.).

Long-term care homes and retirement homes also require masks to be worn by staff and essential visitors.

Are there places where masks/face coverings do not need to be worn?

The Ontario government is now mandating face coverings be worn across the province. This includes:

  • Public spaces (for example, inside stores, event spaces, entertainment facilities and common areas in hotels).
  • Workplaces, even those that are not open to the public.
  • Vehicles that operate as part of a business or organization, including taxis and rideshares.

According to the Province, establishments in which face coverings are not required are: correctional facilities; university dorms or other similar dwellings (except when you are in common areas and can’t maintain 2 metres from others); residences for people with developmental disabilities; and instances in which people are performing/rehearsing for a film/TV production, concert, artistic event or theatrical performance.

Masks can also be temporarily removed for:

  • Receiving services that require you to take it off (for example, going to the dentist).
  • Exercising in a gym/fitness centre
  • Eating or drinking at a restaurant
  • Health and safety purposes (as necessary)

Are churches/places of worship covered under the masking rules?

Yes, mask use is required in churches or places of worship. Attendees to religious services/rites or ceremonies must wear masks at all times, while maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others. For additional directions on mask use and COVID-19 prevention measures in places of worship, click here.

Why are masks and face coverings required inside public places?

Wearing non-medical masks or face coverings (2+ layers are recommended) inside public places is another way to stop the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true as more businesses and public spaces reopen. With new, more contagious COVID-19 variants now circulating locally and in Ontario, the risk of illness is still there and precautions must continue to be taken.

Evidence supports wearing a mask when inside public places is an important measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission. Masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19, but may help protect others. Along with physical distancing, frequent handwashing, cough/sneeze hygiene, and staying home when ill, the use of a non-medical mask or face covering inside public places is another way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

What areas of a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public are subject to the non-medical mask and face covering requirements?

If staff/workers are performing tasks indoors that require them to be less than 2 metres from an unmasked or improperly masked individual without a barrier (e.g. Plexiglass, partition, wall), masks and other appropriate Personal Protective Equipment must be worn to ensure proper protection for eyes, nose and mouth.

Customers and patrons entering a business must also wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin, unless exempted (see next question/answer for details). Masks must also be worn if people line up inside or outside the business (while maintaining physical distancing), as well as when accessing personal care services (like hair salons, barbershops, and tanning salons).

Are there times when you do not have to wear a face covering?

The Ontario government is now mandating the use of face coverings across the province. Below are the only situations when you do not need to wear a face covering:

  • Children do not have to wear a face covering indoors if they are younger than two years old.
  • If you have a medical condition that makes it difficult to wear a face covering, are unable to put on or remove a face covering without someone else’s help, and are receiving accommodations according to the Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005).
  • In correctional facilities or youth detention centres.
  • In university dorms or other similar dwellings, except when you are in a common area and can’t maintain 2 metres (6 feet) from others.
  • If you are performing or rehearsing for a film/television production, concert, artistic event or theatrical performance.

You can also temporarily take off your face covering to:

  • Receive services that require you to take it off (e.g. at the dentist, getting a facial)
  • Take part in an athletic or fitness activity
  • To eat or drink
  • As necessary for health and safety purposes.

What happens if patrons don’t wear a mask?

People who are responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public and currently operating under Ontario’s reopening rules must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan to ensure people are informed of the requirement to wear a mask or face covering that covers their nose, mouth and chin when entering or remaining in an indoor public space.

A COVID-19 Safety Plan (provincial template or HKPR sample resource) describes how a business or establishment will keep employees, volunteers, patrons, and other people safe, including the wearing of masks/face coverings.

People in an enclosed public space who remove their mask for extended periods of time, will receive a verbal reminder of the requirement to wear a mask under these instructions. Failure to comply with the masking requirements could lead to a fine.

Do I have to disclose my medical condition if I don’t wear a mask?

No one is required to disclose a medical condition or reason why they are exempt from wearing a mask. Medical documentation does not need to be provided either. All a person has to say is that: “I am not able to wear a mask.”

People who are responsible for a place of business/facility that is indoors and open to the public should respect this answer. For privacy reasons, owners/operators are not allowed to ask specifics on why someone cannot wear a mask. All that owners/operators are required to do is make patrons and members of the public aware of the mask use requirement.

It is recognized there are a variety of reasons why a person cannot wear a mask and people are asked to continue to be kind to each other and support everyone in the community as we work together to stop the spread of the virus. 

The requirement to have people wear masks within a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public is not meant to stigmatize people who are unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons or their age.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. To protect their staff and customers, some businesses may offer their service in another way (such as through curbside pickup, delivery services) without allowing someone to enter without a mask.

To avoid potential problems, call ahead to a business to see what its policy is regarding masking and to see if curbside pickup or delivery service options are available.

Why can’t mask use be a voluntary decision?

Although there has been information and messaging shared on the public health benefits of wearing a mask when physical distancing is a challenge, many people will still not wear a mask. Many of the people who are now testing positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic and do not realize they are ill. If they do not wear a mask in public, they can easily spread the virus to other, more vulnerable people within the community.

The requirement to wear a mask within a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public is meant to serve as a reminder to everyone who can wear a mask, that they should be doing so to help protect others.

How is this being enforced?

Every owner/operator of a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public will have a COVID-19 Safety Plan that outlines the requirements for customers/patrons to wear a mask or face covering when entering the premises.

Employees and operators will provide a verbal reminder to any customer entering the premises without a mask that the customer should be wearing a mask as a result of this directive.

Implementation of this will be enacted and enforced in ‘good faith’ and will be primarily used as a means to educate people on mask use in public spaces. 

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

Public Health Inspectors from the HKPR District Health Unit, as well as municipal bylaw and local police officers, will be involved in providing additional education and enforcement to operators of commercial establishments.

What are the fines?

As per the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, those who do not comply with the above noted requirements may be liable for a fine of: $750 – $1,000 for an individual owner/operator of a commercial establishment, to a maximum of $100,000 or in the case of a corporation, not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

Are both businesses and customers subject to fines?

As noted above, implementation of this restriction will be enacted and enforced in ‘good faith’ and will be primarily used as a means to educate people on mask use in public spaces.

As per the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, those businesses that do not comply with the instructions may be liable for a fine of $750 to $1,000 for an individual, to a maximum of $100,000, or in the case of a corporation, not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

What would be the best way for store owners to address the issue if patrons don’t have or refuse to wear a mask for both reasons that are legitimate and those that are not?

People who are responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public are asked to use their “best effort” to ensure patrons and members of the public wear a mask while in the commercial premise. This means offering a verbal reminder to the patron that mask use is required within the establishment or a verbal reminder about mask use if the person removes the mask while in the premise. 

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

For privacy reasons, if you are someone who is responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public, you cannot ask patrons the reasons they cannot wear a mask. All you are required to do is make patrons and members of the public aware of the mask use requirement.

Do restaurant servers need to wear masks?

Servers must wear a mask and eye protection, as part of the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The COVID-19 Safety Plan must describe the requirements of wearing masks or face coverings, and the wearing of PPE.

Is it mandatory that employees working in retail stores are required to wear masks?

Yes. The COVID-19 Safety Plan must describe the requirements of wearing masks or face coverings, and the wearing of PPE.

Are staff and customers still required to wear a mask if there is a plexiglass barrier between them?

Yes, a barrier is not sufficient to stop the droplet transmission of the virus. When both parties are wearing a mask, it protects both the staff and the customer from the potential spread of the virus.

Can I remove my mask or face covering if physical distancing is not a concern in the establishment or enclosed public space I am visiting?

Members of the public are permitted to temporarily remove a mask for the following reasons:

  • Receiving services (including eating or drinking when dine-in services are allowed), 

OR

  • While actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities.

Ensure you wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing your mask or face covering.

What should store owners and staff do if a customer does not/cannot wear a mask?

Owners/operators and staff of commercial establishments are asked to use their “best effort” to ensure patrons and members of the public wear a mask while in the commercial premise. This means offering a verbal reminder to the patron that mask use is required within the establishment or a verbal reminder about mask use if the person removes the mask while in the premise.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

I work in a hot commercial kitchen/warehouse. Do I need to wear a mask?

If you work in a commercial establishment, a mask should be worn when interacting with the members of the public inside. You may want to contact your Ministry of Labour representative to clarify if mask and/or Personal Protective Equipment is required in your situation to avoid a potential fine.

Who do I call if I want to report a business not requiring customers to wear a mask?

To report a non-complying business, or for more information on the Health Unit’s instructions to places of business or facilities that are indoors and open to the public to require the use of masks by patrons, call the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020 or submit a complaint electronically.

Can a person be refused service for not wearing a non-medical mask or face covering?

The implementation should be enforced in “good faith” and any person not wearing a mask will receive a verbal reminder from the staff of the establishment.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

How do I choose a non-medical mask or face covering?

In choosing a non-medical mask, ensure it is:

  • Made of 2+ layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • Well-fitted with ear loops or ties
  • A comfortable fit against your face and allows you to breathe easily without having to adjust it
  • Large enough to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping
  • Durable to allow you to frequently wash and dry it without losing its shape

Other options for non-medical masks include wearing a bandana or scarf, or making one out of a T-shirt or a bandana. The Public Health Agency of Canada also offers instructions on how to make a homemade face coverings.

Are face shields allowed?

A face shield is not a substitute for wearing a face mask as it does not filter respiratory droplets. A face shield may provide additional protection for the wearer against droplets expelled from another person, however these droplets may still be inhaled around the shield. Respiratory droplets expelled by the wearer may escape around the sides of the face shield, which therefore provides less protection to others. If you choose to wear a face shield, we recommend – if possible – to wear it in addition to a properly fitted cloth masks.

If I can’t wear a mask, can I wear a face shield?

A face shield would not be considered an equal substitute for a face mask as it does not provide filtering capacity. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) supports the use of face shields as a “better than nothing” alternative to face masks if there is a shortage of non-medical masks or for populations who are not able to properly wear non-medical masks, such as individuals with a respiratory condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. The WHO makes note that face shields are inferior to face masks at preventing the spread of an infection through droplets and at a minimum should extend below the chin and cover the sides of the face. 

What is the proper way to use a non-medical mask or face covering?

  • Wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (use good hand hygiene while wearing it too)
  • Masks should fit snugly, but comfortably against your face (non-gaping) allowing you to breathe without restriction. Masks should be secured with ties or ear loops and have multiple fabric layers
  • Do not share cloth masks with others
  • Remember not to touch or rub your eyes while wearing it
  • Avoid moving, adjusting or touching your mask while using it, as it could become contaminated on the outside.
  • Change face coverings if they get slightly wet or dirty
  • Wash the cloth mask after each use as it can get damp or dirty:
  • Put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and then disposed of
  • Cloth masks can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after putting the mask into the laundry.
  • Homemade masks that cannot be washed should be thrown out in a properly lined garbage bin as soon as they get damp, dirty or crumpled. Do not throw used masks on the ground or in a shopping cart. Immediately after wash your hands with soap and water.

Watch this How to Use a Cloth Mask Video for additional tips. 

What is double masking? Is it now recommended given the new, more contagious COVID-19 variants of concern circulating in Ontario?

Double-masking means wearing one face mask on top of another. An example is wearing a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.

In early 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. This resulted in new CDC guidelines for Americans on improving mask fit, which includes adding layers of material to a mask (either by using cloth masks with multiple layers of fabric, or by wearing a disposable mask under a cloth mask).

This change comes as new, more contagious COVID-19 variants are circulating. So far, the Public Health Agency of Canada has not changed its recommendations on mask use in Canada. In November 2020, PHAC did update its recommendations to say non-medical masks should be made of at least three layers, with the middle layer being a filter-type fabric.

Currently in Ontario, you must wear a non-medical mask or face covering that covers your nose, mouth and chin inside any business or public place. Properly wearing a mask inside public spaces and maintaining 2 metres physical distance from others are important measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19, but can help protect others.

While there is no instruction to ‘double mask’ in Canada, consider doing so if it makes you feel more comfortable (taking care to ensure it does not make breathing difficult). Add an extra layer to your cloth mask or try wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask.

The best advice to prevent COVID-19 remains staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with other people you do not live with.


Additional Resources

Posters For Businesses/Commercial Establishments

How to Use/Wear a (3-Layer) Cloth Mask Video – HKPR District Health Unit Video

Employee Health and Safety During COVID-19

Know your rights as an employee when it comes to health and safety during COVID-19.

Resources/Legislation

All levels of governments are providing support and protection for people affected by coronavirus. The following resources can help you understand your rights. (Information is current at the time of this posting; please check official government websites for the most recent updates):   

Ontario Human Rights Commission FAQs 
Explains your rights during COVID-19 in series of questions and answers.

Ontario Government

The Ontario government has set out health and safety protections for workers during COVID-19. All workers have the right to refuse unsafe work. Some of the protections are included in the following: 

If you have identified a health and safety issue at your workplace, contact your manager or supervisor, your Joint Health and Safety Committee representative, and/or your union representative.  

For Additional Complaints/Concerns
  • If you’re unable to resolve concerns, or want to report a workplace health and safety incident, critical injury, fatality, or work refusal, call the Health and Safety Contact Centre at the Ministry of Labour to report your issue.  You can speak to a representative at 1-877-202-0008.
  • For less urgent health and safety issues, file an online complaint now.  The Health and Safety Contact Centre will review and respond in due course. 
  • If you’ve been fired or punished for exercising your rights under the Ontario Health and Safety Act, you can file a reprisal complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.
Business Questions

For Employers and Employees

Current Reopening Situation
On This Page:
Key messages
  • Reinforce physical distancing whenever and wherever possible:
    • Allow staff to work from home if possible.
    • Avoid face-to-face meetings.
    • Avoid sharing work stations, tools or equipment.
    • Alter shifts and stagger breaks.
    • In lunch rooms and other common areas, use floor markings to show 2-metre distance between chairs. Ensure 2 metre distance is also maintained between co-workers when they remove masks to eat or drink.
  • Offer delivery or curbside pick up for customers and clients.
  • Practise good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette always. Remind everyone at work to wash hands frequently with soap and water. Provide hand sanitizer and ensure access to handwashing facilities and soap.
  • Clean and disinfect work stations, and all commonly touched surfaces often.
  • Ontario is now requiring that non-medical masks or face coverings be worn inside public places. Employees who work with the public are covered by this. Ensure everyone at work knows about proper mask fit and when a mask can temporarily be removed.
  • Recommend safe carpooling among employees. Ensure physical distancing on the drive to work. Stick to two people per vehicle. The second person should sit in the back, passenger-side seat to ensure proper distance from the driver. Masks should be worn on the trip. The only exception to this two-person limit is if travelling in the same vehicle with people from your own household.
  • Develop a plan to effectively manage employee absence and ensure that everyone stays home if they are sick.
  • Use these workplace videos to promote public health measures at work.
  • Regularly communicate and share credible and evidenced based information with employees and customers. Provide ongoing updates and let them know what you are doing to keep them healthy during the pandemic.
  • Support mental health at work. Put in place policies that support employees who need to be absent from work due to illness or being in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. Remind staff of their Employee and Family Assistance Program if your workplace has one. You can also share these Mental Health supports.
  • Know your rights as a worker during the pandemic. Click here for information on Employee Health and Safety during COVID-19.
  • Develop a plan on what to do if a person who is sick visits or comes to work at your business.
  • Support any COVID-19 instructions employees have received from a health care provider. This protects the health of your workers and customers.
Workplace health and safety resources

Visit the Ontario government website for a full list of sector-specific guidelines for reopening. You can also go to these Ontario health and safety associations for specific COVID-19 health and safety advice tailored to your workplace:

Additional Resources
What if There is a Case of COVID-19 in My Workplace?
Employees/Co-workers
  • Get employees to screen themselves for COVID-19 each day before coming to work. The Ministry of Health has an online COVID-19 Screening Tool for Employees that may be of use.
  • Anyone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 must NOT go to work and should self-isolate at home. Employees should not return to work until the required self-isolation period is over. Further direction on this will be provided by the Health Unit. A person’s COVID-19 vaccination status may also determine the length of any isolation.
  • Employees are responsible to report COVID-19 illness to their employer if it is likely to cause illness to another person in the workplace. If an employee discloses they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with the virus, confirm they are self-isolating.
  • Physical distancing rules at work mean employees should not be in close contact with each other. If an employee is identified as being a close contact of a co-worker who is confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19, the person should immediately take Ontario’s online COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to see what further care is needed. They can also call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000. The employee may also be contacted by public health with further directions on what to do, including self-isolating or self-monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Employers are strongly urged to support the COVID-19 instructions your employees have received from any health care provider. This protects the health of your workers and customers.
  • Employers should also put in place policies that support employees who need to be absent from work due to illness or being a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case.
  • The Health Unit does not recommend that employers require clearance testing or doctor’s notes for employees to return to work.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have been touched by an employee with COVID-19 as soon as possible. Continue to frequently clean and disinfect commonly touched or shared surfaces at work, including tools, equipment and workstations.
  • Encourage everyone at work to continue following physical distancing rules (staying 2 metres or 6 feet apart from others) and regularly wash hands with soap and water
  • Toronto Public Health has developed Guidance for Employers on Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace. The Guide is included here for your information.
Customers/Clients
  • Follow direction from public health about any extra precautions that are needed to reduce the risk of illness. These directives can include: getting employees/staff who were in close contact with the customer/client to self-isolate or self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, increasing cleaning and disinfecting at your workplace, and other measures
  • Continue to keep everyone at work and customers safe:
    • Follow provincial rules that specify how your business/workplace can operate (for example, only offer curbside pickup, limit number of people in store, etc.).
    • Ensure a 2-metre (6-foot) distance is kept between people.
    • Reduce overcrowding.
    • Increase your online or phone services
    • Offer curb-side delivery
    • Make hand sanitizer available for customers at entry and exit points.
    • Encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine, and provide time off for staff to get a dose.
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Stay Connected

You can find and follow updates on COVID-19 in your local community via the following HKPR resources:

If you have questions about COVID-19, you can contact the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020, or email at info@hkpr.on.ca

Physical Distancing at Work

Keep your distance at work to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here’s how to practise physical distancing at work:


  • Staff and customers MUST maintain a distance of two metres (six feet) wherever possible. 
  • Offer alternatives to customers such as delivery or pick up services. Consider partnering with a non-profit group to provide delivery options for vulnerable clients/customers who may have a hard time accessing your services. 
  • Post self-screening signage at entrances to tell customers to delay their visit  if they are sick.
  • Implement strategies to help eliminate customer lineups, such as extended shopping hours 
  • Stagger employee use of common break spaces 
  • Replace face-to-face meetings with tele- or video-conferencing options 
  • Postpone or cancel non-essential work travel.
  • Wear non-medical masks or face coverings, as directed by the Health Unit. This is especially important in situations where physical distancing is difficult.
Additional Resources:

Fact Sheet – COVID-19 and Physical Distancing – Public Health Ontario

Download and print resources below:

Printable COVID-19 Resources

Download and print these COVID-19 resources below:

Image of AODA compliant 'Keep Your Distance on Elevators' poster - click as a link
Image of AODA compliant ‘Keep Your Distance on Elevators’ poster – click as a link

Keep Distance on Elevators
Poster

Prevention poster for customers or visitors to a workplace
Prevention Customers

Prevention for Customers
Poster

Prevent the spread poster which can be used in the community
Prevention Community

Prevention in the Community
Poster

Prevention poster for tenants
Prevention for Tenants

Prevention for Tenants
Poster

Image of maximum occupance poster – click as a link

Max Occupancy – Businesses
Poster

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