Peel Region to fine businesses that fail to take action to curb COVID-19 in workplaces

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Business owners and operators in Peel Region will face fines of $5,000 a day if they fail to take action to prevent or stop the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces, the region's top doctor said on Saturday.

"Spread of COVID-19 in workplaces continues to drive rising case counts in Peel," Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's medical officer of health, said in a news release on Saturday.

"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."

Effective Monday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m., an order issued by Peel Public Health under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act will require employers to take steps to protect employees and co-operate with officials in investigations of workplace outbreaks.

"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," Loh said.

The order doesn't force employers to provide paid sick leave to employees because the legislation doesn't permit that power. But Loh said Peel Public Health strongly recommends that employers protect their employees by providing paid sick leave.

Peel has had 116 workplace outbreaks since September

Peel Region said in the news release: "This would permit employees who are affected by COVID-19 to do the right thing and self-isolate to help stop spread."

Peel Region has had 116 workplace outbreaks from Sept. 1 to Nov. 13.

Peel Public Health is investigation eight such outbreaks. A workplace outbreak is defined as two or more cases that have likely been acquired in the workplace over a two-week period.

Of the 116 outbreaks, 58.6 per cent have been in the one of the following four sectors: manufacturing and industrial, food processing, distribution and transportation.

One-in-three, or 33.6 per cent, have been in manufacturing and industrial settings.

Under the order, all employers must do the following if their workplaces have someone has been diagnosed with COVID-19, has symptoms of it or has been exposed to someone with the disease:

  • Not allow the ill employee to enter the workplace and instruct the person to remain in isolation unless he or she needs urgent medical attention.

  • Implement all COVID-19 prevention measures outlined in provincial regulations and guidance, including screening, distancing, mask wearing, proper hand hygiene and infection prevention and control.

  • Immediately notify Peel Public Health and the Ontario labour ministry if there are two or more COVID-19 positive employees.

  • Cooperate and comply with all directives from Peel Public Health and the health and labour ministries to protect other employees from spread of the virus.

The order applies across Peel Region, which includes the cities of Brampton and Mississauga and the town of Caledon.

According to the Ontario health ministry on Saturday, Peel Region had 497 new cases, more than any other public health unit. Toronto had 456 new cases.

Peel Region is currently in the red-control zone with additional measures imposed by Loh to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.