March 24, 2020

Shared with permission from McMillan LLP, written on March 23, 2020.

Ontario and Quebec today announced that all non-essential businesses will close as of midnight Tuesday. We have been fielding calls non-stop today from clients wondering whether or not they will be deemed essential. Here’s a breakdown of what we know so far.

Can you or your employees work from home? It appears that teleworking is an approved exception and the question of “essential” does not apply to you.

Do you or your employees have to leave your home to go work? If yes: is your work essential to the basics of human life and the supply chain that supports it? It is this principle that has driven the development of the definition of essential.  To that end, today, the Provinces of Quebec and Ontario released their initial list of essential operations. These lists can seem broad, and will understandably cause many businesses to seek clarification.

How will this all be enforced? Governments have indicated that there will be fines for businesses who defy orders to close and the sanctions could be severe. There is also the potential that, soon enough, Canadians will need to present a permit to leave their homes. We have seen this in Europe and California.

One significant challenge for businesses will be effective communication with their employees. They may not see themselves as “essential” if they don’t understand how critical their work is to supply chains.

Your business will also need to communicate evolving health and safety protocols – both to your employees, and to government.

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