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What is “Essential”? The Government Tries to Clarify

Written by on January 15, 2021 in Covid-19 Centre, Employment Law Blog, Employment Law Issues
Essential work, Essential activities

By Tejpreet (Tanya) Sambi

In addition to the second State of Emergency that came into effect on January 13, 2021, the Government of Ontario has ordered all residents to stay at home, effective this morning at 12:01 a.m.

The Stay-At-Home order requires residents to remain in their homes at all times, unless it was essential for them to leave their homes. But what exactly is “essential”?

The Stay-At-Home order is confusing, to say the least.

Today, the Government of Ontario released a statement to clarify what an essential trip is and what constitutes essential travel.

The following are a list of trips/activities that are deemed essential by the Government of Ontario, but it should be noted that the Government has left the definition of “essential” open to interpretation (i.e. what is essential for one person may not be essential for all):

1.  Food, Beverages, and Personal Care Items: delivery, drive-through or take out from restaurants is permitted, grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, and cannabis stores are all open.

2.  Government & HealthCare Services: social services, addiction support services, medical appointments, dental appointments, mental health services, massage therapy appointments, and visiting the pharmacy.

3.  Animal Care: attending veterinary appointments, purchasing animal food or supplies, walking or exercising an animal.

4.  Exercise: the definition of exercise will vary from person to person, but it should be noted that Ski Hills are closed throughout Ontario; residents are encouraged to consult their local public health unit or municipality to determine what recreational amenities are open in their community (such as Skating rinks).

5.  Work: when an individual’s job cannot be done from home, they will be deemed to be “essential” workers for the purpose of the Stay-At-Home order; domestic services, such as housekeeping, cooking, indoor and outdoor cleaning and maintenance services are permitted, but only to support children, seniors and vulnerable persons.

6.  Travel: travelling to an airport, bus station or train station for the purpose of travelling to a destination that is outside of the Province.

7.  Curb-side pick-up: for non-essential and essential retail.

8.  Appointments at businesses permitted to be open by appointment under the Stage 1 Order

9.  Places of Worship, Funerals, and Weddings: religious services, rites or ceremonies, weddings and funeral services are permitted as long as face coverings are worn, physical distancing is possible, and only 10 people are gathered indoors or outdoors.

10.  Single Person Household Visits: Individuals who live alone, as well as single parents, can have exclusive, close contact with another household to reduce the negative impacts of social isolation.

11.  Courier, Postal, Shipping, Moving and Delivery Services

Activities/Services not considered “essential”

Activities/Services that are not considered “essential” under the Stay-At-Home Order include:

  1. Intra-provincial travel
  2. Ski Hills
  3. Open Houses
  4. In-person driving instruction
  5. Visits to Cottages or Secondary Residences (unless it is for emergency maintenance)
  6. Short Term Rental Getaways
  7. Concert venues, theatres and cinemas (including drive-in or drive-through events)

There is no time limit for how long an individual may be outside their home for an essential trip. There is also no limit on how many trips the individual can take throughout the day.

Residents are required to identify themselves to police officers when the police officer has “reasonable and probable grounds” that there has been a breach of the orders made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act.

Contact Minken Employment Lawyers today

Minken Employment Lawyers is your source for expert advice and advocacy on today’s employment law issues. If you have any questions with respect to the above or need guidance on what are essential activities and what constitutes essential travel, please contact us or call us at 905-477-7011 to schedule a consultation. Sign up for our newsletter to receive up-to-date Employment Law information, including new legislation and Court decisions impacting your workplace.

Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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