Business owners and operators who fail to take necessary action to prevent or stop the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace now face a fine of $5,000 per day under a Section 22 Order issued by Peel Public Health last Saturday.
“Spread of COVID-19 in workplaces continues to drive rising case counts in Peel. While most workplaces take great care to protect their employees, some employers continue to disregard the safety of their people and as a result, the Peel community,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, the Region’s Medical Officer of Health. “”It’s time for employers who choose not to pay employees when they are sick to put people over profit. The cost of COVID-19 spreading across our community is far greater than the price of a few sick days.”
Since the beginning of April, Peel Public Health has investigated over 1,500 potential COVID-19 exposures in workplaces.
The Section 22 Order, which was issued under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, mandates employers to follow legislation, implement employee protections and cooperate with outbreak investigations when outbreaks occur in their workplaces.
It requires all employers where someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19, has symptoms of it or has been exposed to someone with the disease to follow specific guidelines outlined by Peel Public Health.
Establishments must implement all COVID-19 prevention measures outlined in provincial regulations and guidance, including but not limited to screening, distancing, masks, hand hygiene and infection prevention and control.
A sick employee must not be allowed to enter the workplace and be instructed to remain in isolation unless they need urgent medical attention.
Peel Public Health and the Ministry of Labour, Skills and Development are to be immediately notified if there are two or more COVID-19 positive employees.Following this, businesses must cooperate and comply with all directives from Peel Public Health, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Labour, Skills and Development to protect other employees from spread.
This Section 22 Order is the next step in a series of enhanced measures put in place in Peel to try and limit the spread of COVID-19. It applies across Peel, in the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, and the Town of Caledon.
It stops short of forcing employers to provide employees paid sick leave because the Act does not permit that power. In issuing this order, however, Peel Health strongly recommends that employers protect their employees by providing sick leave benefits and job protections. This would permit employees who are affected by COVID-19 to do the right thing and self-isolate to help stop spread, the Region said in a media statement.
Peel has had 116 workplace outbreaks from September 1 to November 13. There are eight workplace outbreaks currently under investigation.
Of the 116 outbreaks, close to three-in-five (58.6%) have been in one of four sectors: manufacturing/industrial, food processing, distribution and transportation.
One-in-three (33.6%) of these outbreaks have been in manufacturing/industrial settings.
A workplace outbreak is defined as 2 or more cases that have likely been acquired in the workplace in a two-week period.
Peel is currently in the Red – Control zone with enhanced measures to slow spread and save lives.