COVID-19 Crisis: What is an “Essential Workplace” Anyways?

As governments struggle to find ways to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, we have seen many orders and directions regarding how business is to be conducted. In some cases, industries have been shut down entirely. Earlier this week, the government of Ontario announced the shutdown of all non-essential businesses effective midnight tonight.

As Doug Ford said,

The health and safety of every Ontarian must come first and that is why we are taking these important steps. It means food will remain on the shelve. It means Ontarians will still have access to their medications and essential products. It means the power will still stay on and telecommunications will continue to run. But it also means that every Ontarian must do their part.”

The list of those businesses deemed to be essential was not released until last night, and it can be found here. And although many businesses expected that they would have to close, the reality is that this list goes far beyond what most of us would think of when listing essential services. It is not just limited to food, medical care, power and telecommunications; in fact, the list includes 74 different types of essential businesses.

So before you assume that you must close your business down tonight, review the list carefully. You may be able to continue operating.

It is also important to remember that as the pronouncement says,

This does not preclude the provision of work and services by entities not on this list either online, by telephone or by mail/delivery.

Note that teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses.

More details about the shutdown are expected today, including whether affected businesses will be entitled to any compensation.

On the bright side, law firms are included in the list of essential services, and Rudner Law is fully capable of operating virtually. We will continue to guide our clients as they navigate these uncharted waters.