Ontario’s three-phase framework for Re-opening Ontario after COVID-19 (the "Framework") outlines general methods and guidelines to follow to reportedly safely and efficiently contain the spread of COVID-19, while re-opening businesses, services and public spaces:

Stage 1 (in progress)

Stage 2

Stage 3

  • opening select workplaces that can meet current public health guidelines
  • allowing essential gatherings of a limited number of people
  • opening some outdoor spaces
  • continued protections for vulnerable populations
  • opening more workplaces with significant mitigation plans
  • opening more public spaces
  • allowing some larger public gatherings
  • continued protections for vulnerable populations


  • opening all workplaces responsibly
  • relaxing restrictions on public gatherings
  • continued protections for vulnerable populations


No definitive timelines have been announced, particularly for phases two or three.


As of May 4, subject to complying with "strict safety guidelines", these businesses were permitted to reopen:

  • garden centres and nurseries with curbside pick-up and delivery only;

  • lawn care and landscaping;

  • additional essential construction projects that include:

    • shipping and logistics;

    • broadband, telecommunications, and digital infrastructure;

    • any other project that supports the improved delivery of goods and services;

    • municipal projects;

    • colleges and universities;

    • childcare centres;

    • schools; and

    • site preparation, excavation, and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development;

  • automatic and self-serve car washes;

  • auto dealerships, open by appointment only;

  • golf courses may prepare their courses for the upcoming season, but not open to the public; and

  • marinas may also begin preparations for the recreational boating season by servicing boats and other watercraft and placing boats in the water, but not open to the public. Boats and watercraft must be secured to a dock in the marina until public access is allowed.

As of May 6, "easing restrictions" for retail stores and "essential construction" was initiated, as follows and subject to "applicable health and safety guidelines":

  • May 8, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. – garden centres and nurseries will be able to open for in-store payment and purchases;

  • May 9, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. – hardware stores and safety supply stores will be permitted to open for in-store payment and purchases; and

  • May 11, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. – retail stores with a "street entrance" can begin offering curbside pickup and delivery.

In addition, "expanding essential construction" is permitted to allow below-grade multi-unit residential construction projects (such as apartments and condominiums). Existing above-grade projects may also continue.


Eligible retailers preparing for in-store purchases are expected to operate under the same health and safety guidelines that apply to retailers in the essential services sector, including grocery stores and pharmacies.

Eligible businesses offering curbside pickup and delivery services are expected to meet strict health and safety guidelines comparable to those applying to the essential services sector.

These “strict safety guidelines” expected to be followed are guided by resources made available by Ministry of Labour in Ontario (the “MOL”) and various provincial Health and Safety Associations (“HSAs”) in Ontario, including guidelines published by:

  • the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA) for the construction, electrical and utilities, aggregates, natural gas, ready-mix concrete and transportation sectors;

  • the Public Service Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) for hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, residential and community care facilities, universities and colleges, school boards, libraries and museums, municipalities, the provincial government and its agencies and fire and paramedic services;

  • the Workplace Safety North (WSN)  for the forestry, mining, smelting, refining, paper, printing and converting sectors; and

  • the Workplace Safety and Prevention Services (WSPS) for the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors.

The MOL has also released "guidance notes" for employers in five sectors:

The MOL has also published sector-specific posters for both employers and employees to promote infectious disease prevention strategies in certain sectors.

These posters and sector-specific health and safety guidelines can be downloaded and printed from the MOL’s Web site.


  • "strict compliance" with the new health and safety directives is required for employers to reopen and operate – at the very least, employers should:

    • review, develop and implement appropriate training on industry-specific health and safety requirements, pursuant to the Framework;

    • post in the workplace any relevant or applicable posters or guidelines that are published by the MOL and/or applicable HSAs;

    • conduct periodic reviews and audits of materials and guidelines published by the MOL and applicable HSAs to ensure ongoing compliance and up-to-date training; and

    • maintain records of any and all COVID-19-specific training provided to employees;

  • these new guidelines are not "limited" to businesses that have recently re-opened, or are intending to re-open; rather, they will impact businesses that have continued to operate throughout Ontario’s State of Emergency, either as a result of being deemed essential, or as a result of not having been ordered to close – these businesses should continue to conduct their operations as they have to date, ensuring ongoing compliance with any relevant or applicable health and safety guidelines developed by Ontario;

  • whether reopening or continuing to operate, employers remain statutorily required to "take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances" for the protection of workers and other individuals at the workplace;

  • employers should take steps to achieve and, whenever possible, exceed the basic protections required by the guidelines and occupational health and safety legislation in Ontario to safeguard workers and minimize any risk of non-compliance with health and safety requirements; and  

  • failing to comply with any existing or newly promulgated health and safety requirements may lead to significant penalties, including fines, compliance orders, stop-work orders, risk of prosecution and/or imprisonment.  

Despite all of this, things may change. Nothing is certain during the pandemic. Be watchful for ongoing updates and modifications, particularly if infections may increase during phase one. 

CKL businesses should proactively ensure that they have taken all reasonable steps to adhere to applicable guidelines, emergency orders and other potential sources of liability, including:

  • compliance with health and safety protocols; and

  • adhering to any applicable employment standards, human rights protections and employee privacy regulations, particularly regarding the collection, use and potential disclosure of personal health information.


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