As Canadian workers begin to return to their workplaces, supervisors and managers of reopening businesses will be personally liable to strict legal requirements and duties which carry charges and fines if violated.

“This is not just an exercise in getting people back to work. It’s an exercise in complying with some very strict legal obligations, particularly in Ontario,” says Adrian Miedema, a partner in the Toronto employment group of Dentons Canada LLP. “The people who are responsible for the particular place of business need to be aware of those obligations.”

Each province has its own emergency legislation in effect in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In emergency legislation across the country, there are special provisions that impose obligations on employers who are bringing their employees back to work.

“And these can be actually very broad obligations,” says Miedema.

In Ontario, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act puts broad obligations on the “person responsible for a place of business.” The Act requires the person responsible to ensure the business complies with the Occupational Health and Safety Act as well as any advice, recommendations or instructions from public health officials, including those concerning physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.

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