COVID-19 Industry Update – January 4, 2022

Good afternoon,

As part of our ongoing communication with members, we wanted to provide the following update:

1) New Home Construction and Renovation Not Affected by New COVID Restrictions

The provincial government announced yesterday a return to a Modified Step 2 as of Wednesday, January 5 for a minimum of 3 weeks (at least January 27). See the Summary of Measures for more details.

New home construction and residential renovation projects can continue or be started.

At the same time, it is absolutely vital that we redouble our efforts and commitment to health and safety.

We strongly urge all members to revisit their COVID-19 safety plans as a precautionary step and to take all necessary actions to protect workers, clients, and members of the public.

Members should be aware of the following measures which may impact your operations:

Remote Work

  • Each person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall ensure that any person who performs work for the business or organization conducts their work remotely, unless the nature of their work requires them to be on site at the workplace. This applies to corporate offices and staff who can work remotely.

Capacity Limits

  • Limited to the lesser of 50% capacity or the number of people that can maintain physical distancing of 2 metres indoors. This applies to indoor workplaces such as décor centres and sales centres.
  • Real estate open houses, including Model Homes, are by appointment only. Open houses are not permitted.

The province will be enhancing jobsite health and safety enforcement actions and therefore members can, and should, expect increased enforcement for on-site protocols. The industry’s designation as an essential workplace throughout previous COVID-19 waves was predicated on our industry’s collective strong adherence to safety requirements. We must continue working together to keep each other safe and keep our industry running.

2) Tarion

Tarion announced today that it will be taking the following measures:

  • Builder repair periods will be extended for 21 days to align with the guidance that everyone work from home as much as possible. This extension does not apply to emergency issues which must be addressed as soon as possible.
  • Conciliations scheduled during the next 21 days will proceed but will be conducted virtually wherever possible. If they must proceed in person, all health and safety protocols will be observed.
  • Chargeability determinations will continue to be made at the time of conciliation.
  • Given the present health circumstances, Tarion does not consider it absolutely necessary that the PDI  occur prior to a closing in the presence of both the builder and the homeowner.

3) COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plans, H&S practices

Member should have and/or revisit their mandatory COVID-19 safety plans and take all necessary steps to protect workers, clients and members of the public. As a reminder, the Ontario government website has guidance for construction site health and safety. In addition, ensure that any office spaces are also compliant with public health and workplace safety measures.

A summary of basic measures is provided under Item 6.

4) Rapid Test Kits

Learn about workplace screening for COVID-19 to help protect workers and how rapid antigen (point-of-care) tests can fit into your screening program.

If you’re looking for free COVID-19 Rapid Test kits, please visit the Rapid Testing Info Page.

You will need to:

Once a week, report on your usage through the Weekly Reporting Portal – number of tests completed, and how many were positive, negative or inconclusive.  If you don’t do any tests that week you must enter zeros.

5) Extention of COVID-19 Paid Sick Days

The provincial government has extended its Worker Income Protection Benefit program, which provides paid sick days, until July 31, 2022. In addition, the province is extending temporary changes to the Employment Standards Act that prevent temporary layoffs of non-unionized employees from becoming unwanted terminations. This measure will now be extended until July 30, 2022. Members can read the full news release here on these measures.

The full website on the Worker Income Protection Benefit Program can be found here with all relevant details which members should review. Members should contact the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, if they require assistance with the process for submitting claims.

  • WSIB Claim for Reimbursement Portal – Members can find the portal here for submitting a claim for reimbursement. A reminder that employers are entitled to be reimbursed the amount of infectious disease emergency leave pay that they paid to their employees, up to $200 per employee per day taken, with a maximum of 3 days per employee.
  • Check the status of your claim – Once you submit your claim you will receive a claim confirmation number. You can check your claim status with the WSIB for an up-to-date view on the progress of your claim.
  • Payment Schedule – It is expected that it will take approximately two weeks to process an approved claim. The timing of payment depends on the completeness and complexity of the claim.
  • Get help – For specific-claim related inquiries once you have a claim confirmation number or technical issues with submitting a claim, please request support and a claims specialist will reach out to you. For more general information on eligibility criteria, how to apply and program rules, please call the Ontario COVID-19covid 19 Worker Income Protection Benefit Information Centre 1-888-999-2248 ( TTY: 1-866-567-8893).

6) Basic health and safety measures and guidance

Instructions from Public Health Officers

  • Businesses and organizations must comply with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including related to physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting and screening.
  • Businesses and organizations must comply with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials related to COVID 19 vaccination policies.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Equipment, washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers must be cleaned and disinfected.

Personal Protective Equipment

  • Personal protective equipment for the eyes, nose and mouth is required for workers if they are required to come within 2 metres of a person who is not wearing a face covering or mask indoors and are not separated by a barrier.

Face Coverings and Masks

  • Any person in an indoor area of a business or organization or a vehicle that is a part of the business or organization must wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose or chin, with limited exceptions.

COVID-19 Health and Safety Plans & Jobsite Guidance

Screening

Requirements when workers eat or drink

  • Physical distancing or a barrier is required indoors when workers remove face coverings to eat or drink.

COVID-19 Help for Employers

  • Please find linked here further provincial resources and information to help employers navigate government supports and services for addressing COVID-19.