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This page provides guidance for businesses and workplaces to appropriately manage employees who have either tested positive for COVID-19, been identified as a close contact of a confirmed positive case of COVID-19, or are experiencing symptoms without any known exposure to COVID-19.

For employees: If you have a workplace health and safety concern related to COVID-19, or workplace harassment concern and believe your employer is not correcting the situation you can file a complaint online or call the Ministry of Labour – Windsor Office at 519-256-8277 or 1-800-265-5140 to report it.

Please note that acute care, long-term care and retirement homes, in addition to other workplace settings, such as hospitals, clinics, or schools have specific guidance documents that can be found on the Ministry of Health Guidance for the Health Sector webpage. There are also specific guidance documents for childcare centres and schools.

The information on this webpage does not take the place of any legal advice or regulations put in place by any governing body or legislation.


Screening Employees and Staff

  • Employers should ensure that all staff continue to complete daily self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, and complete a COVID-19 workplace-screening tool before reporting to work each day.
  • If employees are symptomatic or fail the screening, they should be directed to seek guidance from a health care provider and undergo testing if indicated. They should stay home and seek further guidance on isolation/testing requirements.
  • If an employee is completing an isolation, they should be excluded from the workplace until the entirety of the isolation period is complete. Exceptions shall only be made in high-risk settings with the appropriate completion and presentation of negative tests.
  • Employees who are close contacts, household contacts, or experiencing symptoms should visit the Individuals with Symptoms, Positive Cases, and Close Contacts webpage to determine next steps, and possible isolation timelines.

Testing

Positive results on a Rapid Antigen Test no longer require a PCR test for confirmation. If your rapid test returns a positive result, please follow the instructions for people who tested positive.

A single negative result on a rapid antigen test cannot rule out infection by COVID-19. If you have symptoms and test negative using a rapid test, you should conduct a second test 24-48 hours later, if available. If both tests are negative, you most likely do not have COVID-19. Continue to self-monitor for symptoms.

To ensure availability of resources for high-risk settings, as of December 31, 2021, publicly funded PCR testing is available only for select individuals and communities. To view a complete list of eligible populations, please visit the Individuals with Symptoms, Positive Cases, and Close Contacts webpage.

Testing and Isolation Guidance for Symptomatic Employees, Positive Cases, and Close Contacts

If an employee notifies you they have tested positive, are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or were a close contact of a positive case, instruct them to:

  1. Determine the appropriate isolation and testing requirements, based on the current isolation guidance before coming into work
  2. If they are required to self-isolate, stay home. If they are required to self-monitor, they can come in to work.
  3. Return to work only when their isolation is complete, including symptoms improving for at least 24 hours if required

Generally, employees are not required to complete a test to return to work unless they are returning early. The following table provides guidance for individuals who live, work, or volunteer in highest risk settings.

Scenario

Isolation Period

Work in a highest risk setting* and:

  • Have symptoms; OR
  • Tested positive
  • Notify the setting
  • Self-isolate for 10 days from when symptoms started or the date of test
  • If symptomatic, self-isolate until symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (48 if gastrointestinal symptoms)
  • Workers may return to work early in staffing shortages (see Appendix A of Management of Cases and Contacts of COVID-19 in Ontario)

Live in a highest risk setting* and:

  • Have symptoms; OR
  • Tested positive
  • Self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status
  • Notify the setting
  • Get tested as soon as possible
  • Continue to self-isolate until no fever and other symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (48 if gastrointestinal)

Live in a highest risk setting and:

  • Are a close contact; AND
  • Do not have symptoms
  • Self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status
  • Notify the setting
  • Get tested as soon as possible
  • If you develop symptoms, follow instructions for symptomatic individuals (extend self-isolation)

Volunteer or work in or otherwise attend a highest risk setting* and:

  • Are a close contact; AND
  • Do not have symptoms
  • Notify the setting of the exposure
  • Self-monitor for 10 days after last exposure
  • Do not go to the high-risk setting for 10 days from last exposure
  • Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days can attend work if they do not have symptoms
  • Workers may return to work early in staffing shortages (see Appendix A of Management of Cases and Contacts of COVID-19 in Ontario)

 

If you are unsure what your next steps should be, complete the online self-assessment.

Highest risk settings include:

  • Hospitals (including complex continuing care facilities and paramedic services)
  • Home and community care workers
  • Congregate living settings with medically and socially vulnerable individuals, including, but not limited to, long-term care, retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, correctional institutions, Provincial Demonstration Schools and hospital schools.

To learn more about testing positive, isolation periods, and what it means to be symptomatic, please visit Ontario.ca/exposed. For a complete list of COVID-19 symptoms, visit the Ministry of Health’s Reference Document.

If individuals require any support or assistance while isolating, please visit the COVID-19 Supports webpage.


Contact Tracing and Outbreaks in the Workplace

Due to a high volume of cases, the WECHU will be unable to contact all cases during their contagious period. Those who test positive for COVID-19 are expected to notify their close contacts, including their workplace (if applicable), immediately.

Generally, contacts in formal group settings (e.g. a workplace) are not considered “close contacts” due to the health and safety measures in place. However, specific individuals may be identified by the case as close contacts based on prolonged, unprotected, close interactions with the case. For more information on close contacts, visit our webpage.

Visitors/customers/members within the workplace who may have been on-site on the same days as the case but did not have high-risk close contacts should be advised to self-monitor. If they develop symptoms of COVID-19, they should immediately self-isolate and follow public health guidance.

Those who weren’t present on the same days or who have no known contact of any kind with the positive case do not need to take additional actions, and should continue to follow routine public health measures.

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A person with COVID-19 is contagious from 48 hours before symptoms start until the end of their self-isolation period, usually 10 days after the symptoms began.

If someone tested positive for COVID-19 but did not have symptoms, they are considered to be contagious from 48 hours before the test to 10 days after the test.


Outbreaks in the Workplace

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Due to increased case rates, the WECHU will not be contact tracing or following up with workplace outbreaks. Investigations will only occur for outbreaks that occur in a high-risk setting.

Outbreak investigations in high-risk settings may be initiated through:

  • Requisite reporting from employers
  • Epidemiological identification of a case or multiple cases associated with a workplace
  • Employee complaints of illness at a workplace directly to the WECHU
  • A request for assistance from an employer
  • Information received through the MLTSD, such as a referral from a workplace complaint
  • Notification through other ministries, provincial, or federal partners

A public health investigation in a high-risk setting may include any of the following:

    • Interviewing the employer to assess existing prevention measures and possible sources of transmission in the workplace.
    • Requesting for information to help identify additional cases and tracing contacts, which may include staff contact information, staff schedules/work attendance, and patron logs.
      • Please note that all requested information must be provided to WECHU in a timely manner to help stop further spread of COVID-19.
      • Be mindful of the privacy of people’s personal health information – do not disclose the names of employees who test positive.
    • Providing guidance on additional required prevention measures (e.g., enhanced cleaning and disinfection), including workplace restrictions and closures to reduce the risk of disease spread in the workplace.
    • Recommendations on targeted testing of staff.
    • Support in communicating to staff, business partners, and the public, where necessary.
    • On-site inspection of the workplace.

Employers with any questions related to a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace may contact the Stop the Spread COVID Hotline at 1-888-444-3659. If you have general questions, consider calling the WECHU at 519-258-2146. Workplaces that are deemed a high-risk setting (i.e. LTCH) can reach out to their assigned WECHU public health inspector. Note that only high-risk settings will be followed up with by the WECHU at this time.

If the WECHU determines there is evidence of transmission in the workplace identified through an investigation, the employer will be notified as soon as possible.


Roles and Responsibilities in a Workplace Outbreak Investigation

Refer to the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Guidance: Workplace Outbreak guidance document to learn more about the specific roles and responsibilities of the Employer, Public Health Unit (PHU), Public Health Ontario (PHO), Ministry of Health (MOH), and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD) in the event of an outbreak in the workplace.

Role of the Employer

  • General duty under OHSA to take all reasonable precautions in the circumstances for the protection of workers.
  • Comply with OHSA and other applicable legislation and regulations, and any orders issued by MLTSD or local Medical Officer of Health (MOH).
  • Implement prevention measures issued by the Ontario government and any other prevention measures recommended by public health agencies.
  • Provide notices of an occupational illness to the MLTSD under ss 52(2) of the OHSA.
  • Cooperate with public health investigations and MLTSD OHSA inspectors.
  • Regularly maintain accurate shift records and up-to-date contact information for employees.
  • Communicate with staff and other stakeholders, as needed, when there is an outbreak.

Role of the Public Health Unit

Due to an increased volume of cases, WECHU will not be following up with workplace outbreaks, unless the outbreak has occurred in a high-risk setting. In the event of a high-risk setting outbreak, the following will occur:

  • Interviewing the employer to assess existing prevention measures and possible sources of transmission in the workplace.
  • Requesting information to help identify additional cases and tracing contacts, which may include staff contact information, staff schedules/work attendance, and patron logs.
    • Please note that all requested information must be provided to WECHU in a timely manner to help stop further spread of COVID-19.
    • Be mindful of the privacy of people’s personal health information – do not disclose the names of employees who test positive.
  • Providing guidance on additional required prevention measures (e.g., enhanced cleaning and disinfection), including workplace restrictions and closures to reduce the risk of disease spread in the workplace.
  • Recommendations on targeted testing of staff.
  • Support in communicating to staff, business partners, and the public, where necessary.
  • On-site inspection of the workplace.

Role of the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD)

  • Receive notice of an occupational illness (e.g., transmission of COVID in the workplace) from employers under subsection 52(2) of the OHSA, investigate to determine if the employer is in compliance with the OHSA, and that appropriate measures have been taken to prevent further illness.
  • Proactively investigate workplaces to monitor compliance with the OHSA and its regulations.
  • Investigate unsafe work practices, critical injuries, fatalities, work refusals, and occupational illness, all as related to worker health and safety – this includes investigations of reports of COVID-19 by employers to MLTSD.
    • The MLTSD Health and Safety Contact Centre (1-877-202-0008) is available for anyone to report health and safety concerns, complaints or to provide notices of occupational illness.
    • If employees have safety concerns at work, they are encouraged to contact their human resource department, health and safety representative, or the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
  • Educational resources about the Employment Standards Act can be found here.

Return to Work Timelines

General Workplaces

In non-high-risk workplaces, employees are able to return to work when their self-isolation is complete. Any employee who tests positive, has symptoms, or is a household member of a positive case will be required to self-isolate for 5 to 10 days. Close contacts (non-household members) who are fully vaccinated and are not experiencing any symptoms, can continue to work during their 10 days of self-monitoring. Should they develop symptoms during the self-monitoring period, they are required to self-isolate immediately. Individuals who have had a resolved COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days (confirmed by a rapid antigen or PCR test) do not need to isolate and can work.

Any setting that is not included in the highest-risk setting list should follow the provincial guidance found here. For further details on returning to work, visit the Provincial webpage.

High-Risk Settings

Any employee in a high-risk setting who has been exposed to the virus should not go to the high-risk setting for 10 days immediately following the exposure. To ensure sufficient staffing levels, individuals who work in high-risk settings who have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, can return to work early.

A progressive range of options exists for contingency staffing with early return of close contacts and cases. It is the responsibility of the organization to determine what staffing option to use under their current staffing shortage circumstances. For guidance on managing critical staffing shortages, view the Ministry Guidance Document.

High-risk settings include:

  • Hospitals and Health Care settings, including complex continuing care facilities and paramedic services
  • Congregate Living settings (e.g. long-term care and retirement homes, First Nation elder care lodges, group homes, shelters, hospices, correctional institutions)
  • Home and Community Care
  • Close Contacts with Rapid Antigen Testing available
    • Return to work after negative molecular test collected on/after day 5 from last exposure; OR
    • Return to work following a negative molecular test prior to first shift (if collected before day 5) AND perform daily rapid antigen testing for 10 days after last exposure or until a second negative molecular test is collected (on/after day 5)
  • Close Contacts when Rapid Antigen Testing is NOT available
    • Return to work after 10 days from last exposure
  • Cases
    • Return to work after 10 days from symptom onset or positive test OR
    • Return to work after single negative molecular or two negative RATs collected 24 hours apart (any time during isolation), AND no fever and symptoms improving for 24 hours (48 if gastrointestinal)
  • Close Contacts with Rapid Antigen Testing available
    • Return to work after two negative RATs collected 24 hours apart; AND
    •  Perform daily rapid antigen testing until end of 10 day self-isolation period OR until meet a negative molecular test is collected on/after day 5
  • Close Contacts when Rapid Antigen Testing is NOT available
    • Return to work on day 7 from last exposure; AND
    • Continue workplace measures for reducing risk of exposure until day 10
  • Cases
    • Return to work on day 7 without testing if ONLY caring for COVID-19 positive patients/residents; AND
    • No fever and symptoms improving for 24 hours (48 if vomiting/diarrhea)
  • Close Contacts with Rapid Antigen Testing available
    • Return to work after single negative RAT prior to first shift; AND
    • Perform daily rapid antigen testing for 10 days after last exposure OR until a negative molecular test is collected on/after day 5
  • Close Contacts when Rapid Antigen Testing is NOT available
    • Return to work 5 days after last exposure; AND
    • Continue workplace measures for reducing risk of exposure until day 10
  • Cases
    • Return to work earlier than day 7 if ONLY caring for COVID-19 positive patients/residents; AND
    • No fever an symptoms improving for 24 hours (48hrs if vomiting/diarrhea)

Considerations for Early Return to Work

  • Return only enough staff so that the business can continue to operate safely
  • Staff who are nearest to completion of their self-isolation period should be returned first
  • When possible, preferential early return to work for staff who have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine
  • Preferential early return for staff with lower risk exposures (i.e. non-household close contact), as compared to higher risk exposures (i.e. ongoing household case)

Individuals who have had a resolved COVID-19 infection in the past 90 days (confirmed by a rapid antigen or PCR test) do not need to isolate and can work in the highest-risk settings.

  • Avoid assigning staff who have returned early to work with vulnerable patients/residents (i.e., immunocompromised, unvaccinated, other underlying risks), when possible
  • Review PPE and IPAC practices to ensure meticulous attention to measures, particularly for staff on early return to work
  • Cohort staff who have returned early to work with COVID-19 positive patients
  • Conduct active screening prior to each shift
  • Take staff’s temperature twice per day to monitor for fever
  • Staff who have returned early should not eat meals in shared spaces with other staff
  • Limit staff who have returned early to working in one facility, when possible
  • Ensure well-fitting source control masking for staff who return to work early (i.e. well-fit medical mask, N95 respirators, or KN95s)

For further details, visit the Ministry of Health Guidance Document.

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Last modified: 
Wednesday, April 13, 2022 - 10:09am