COVID-19 - Get vaccinated and find public health advice for residents and businesses.

COVID-19 in the Workplace

This information is for workplaces and businesses, except health care settings. See specific information for schools, child care and camps and farmers and international agriculture workers (previously referred to as temporary foreign workers).

PCR testing in Niagara is only available to eligible individuals. Public Health does not recommend that employers request a negative PCR test for employees to return to work after isolation. Public Health is unable to clear employees for work. Use the self-isolation guidance to find out how long an employee should self-isolate or self-monitor.

Owners / operators offering personal services are encouraged to read this information and see good practices specific to personal service settings.

Managing COVID-19 in the workplace

Refer to the most up-to-date provincial guidance for public health and workplace safety measures in effect.

The following information and resources are good practices for workplaces.

  • Ventilation and filtration

    Workplaces should keep their heating, ventilation and air conditioning system running at all times and ensure it has been recently maintained by a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system professional. Where a ventilation system is not present, keeping windows and doors open can increase ventilation, though this isn't as controlled as an heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

    Filtration of the air can further reduce the risk from aerosolized virus. Using a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value 13 or higher filter in a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, where the system can tolerate that level of filtration, is strongly encouraged. Only make adjustments to your system in consultation with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system professional.

    Where a central ventilation / filtration system is not present, running a portable air purifier / cleaner with a HEPA filter is a recommended substitute. Such portable devices are best placed in the centre of a room. Larger rooms with more people might need multiple devices. When selecting a portable air purifier / cleaner, consider the rating of the device with respect to the size of the space in which it will be used to determine the appropriate model and / or number of devices for the space.

    Employers and employees can find more good practices on the behaviours to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and indoor ventilation: guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Cleaning and disinfecting

    According to a synthesis by Public Health Ontario (updated July 2021), COVID-19 can survive on a variety of objects and surfaces, potentially leading to transmission; however, epidemiology evidence supporting fomite (surface) transmission is limited.

    Follow Public Health Ontario's recommendations for environmental cleaning and disinfecting of all high touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, toilet handles, counters, hand rails, touch screens surfaces and shared materials, equipment, workstations and keypads.

    All disinfectants (with the exception of household bleach) must have a Drug Identification Number or National Product Number to be approved for use in Canada.

    Provide lined organics and garbage bins throughout the workplace for employees and customers.

  • Sick leave policy

    Review your sick leave policies or establish new non-punitive sick leave policies. Make sure employees with COVID-19 symptoms stay home and self-isolate. Use the self-isolation guidance to find out when household contacts need to self-isolate.

    Learn more about the Employment Standards Act: Infectious disease emergency leave.

  • Promote healthy hygiene practices

    Post clear, visible signage at all entrances and in the workplace reminding employees and customers about:

    • Screening and what to do if they feel unwell (see the "Passive COVID-19 screening" section for more information)
    • How to protect themselves (respiratory etiquette, hand hygiene, physical distancing, etc.)

    Make alcohol-based hand rub available in the screening area and throughout the establishment, such as at each entrance, checkouts, tables, washrooms, etc.

    Employees should wash or sanitize hands between every interaction with customers or after frequent contact with high touch surfaces. When their hands are visibly soiled / contaminated, employees should wash their hands with soap and water instead of using alcohol-based hand rub.

Additional information for employers

Follow these instructions for employees that are required to be on-site at the workplace. Keep a list of staff who attend the workplace each day, and try to keep a list of people who work closely to each other, or attend meetings together.

  • Contacts

    A household contact is someone who lives with an individual who has COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19. Use the self-isolation guidance to find out when household contacts need to self-isolate.

    A workplace contact is anyone who was less than two metres away, even for short periods of time, in the 48 hours before symptoms began or a positive test result of another individual- whichever came first. Use this definition for when an employee has tested positive or has COVID-19 symptoms and you need to identify who was exposed as a contact. Use the self-isolation guidance to find out who must self-isolate and who can self-monitor for symptoms.

    What to do when one or more people have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive

    If someone is sick at work and / or if someone tests positive on a rapid antigen or laboratory PCR test, even if they have no symptoms, send them home to start self-isolation immediately. The following enhanced measures at the workplace are recommended:

    • All surfaces within two metres of a symptomatic/infected person must be cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible, even those that weren't handled/touched
    • For staff that aren't able to work from home:
      • Temporarily shift all possible employees to working from home for one week
      • Increase frequency of rapid antigen tests to three times a week, or even daily if supply allows for staff that are required to come in the office

    Renew emphasis on safety measures outlined in the "Managing COVID-19 in the workplace" section and consider the good practices listed in the "More resources" section.

  • When to close your workplace or business due to COVID-19 infections

    To stop the spread of infection in the workplace, Public Health advises businesses to consider closing the workplace (either the entire workplace OR a specific segment) for 10 days and shifting workers to working remotely when:

    A total of five persons in the workplace have COVID-19 symptoms and/or test positive on a laboratory PCR or rapid antigen test in any combination, AND

    The individuals who notified you attended the workplace 48 hours before they developed symptoms, OR had no symptoms, but attended the workplace within 48 hours of their positive test result, AND

    • There is a link between the employees, for example they work in the same area, the same shift, carpooling, taking breaks together, AND
    • They could have reasonably been infected while at the workplace

    Always follow the guidance for managing COVID-19 in the workplace.

  • Returning to work

    Eligibility criteria for testing in Ontario has changed. Most individuals do not need to get tested. Public Health doesn't recommend that employers require testing or doctor's notes for return to work. Some individuals will continue to test positive for COVID-19 for many months, after they're no longer contagious.

    Use the self-isolation guidance for information on when your employees can return to work after:

    • Having COVID-19 infection
    • Being a household member of a case
    • Being a non-household contact

    If you have employees returning from international travel, you will need refer to federal quarantine or self-isolation travel requirements to find out when your employee can return to work.

  • Protecting employee confidentiality

    Personal information collected for COVID-19 contact tracing can only be used for this purpose, unless an individual provides their consent.

    Ensure you maintain privacy and confidentiality of employees' and patrons' personal health information at all times. Avoid the use of personal identifiers if asked to notify others that a person who was in the workplace, floor, or area was infected or exposed to COVID-19.

    Follow your organizational policies and work with your occupational health and safety department (if you have one) to determine how your organization will handle a worker who has COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive along with the information in the "additional information for employers " section.

Additional information for employees

The Omicron variant is highly transmissible. It's really important that you continue to practise behaviours to prevent the spread of COVID-19 like getting vaccinated and staying home if you're sick.

Tell your employer if you:

  • Develop COVID-19 symptoms at the workplace
  • Attended the workplace in the 48 hours before you developed symptoms, or
  • Have no symptoms, but attended the workplace in the 48 hours before your positive test result
  • Were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19

Useful contacts

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