With the sudden outbreak of Coronavirus, government affairs, company policies, our personal way of life have taken a new direction. Without hesitation, a new normal way of life was forcefully created to protect oneself from getting pinned down by complications from the deadly Coronavirus.

Even though Canadians and workers in the country lost their jobs during the Coronavirus pandemic, the country is seeing some economic recovery as coronavirus restrictions ease throughout the country. With Labour Force Survey, more than 55 per cent of the 3 million jobs lost since April were recouped as of July, 2020.

Approximately 419,000 workers were added in July, a rise of 2.4 per cent from the previous month, June. Development was slower compared to 5.8 per cent growth in June. A recent survey by Statistics Canada on jobs, payroll, and hours found that the coronavirus economic downturn is experiencing a sharp turnaround. Almost all of the jobs earned was in part-time employment. In July, 345,000 part-time vacancies were filled, compared with 73,000 full-time jobs.

Since the pandemic – more women were employed in July than men, though women are still not as close to pre-COVID scales of jobs as men. The pandemic had disproportionately affected women, people of colour, and refugees. The unemployment rate fell to 10.9 per cent but Canada still has 2.2 million unemployed. The unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 69 was 11.3 per cent, a figure not adjusted for seasonal job changes.

To have a sharp increase in employees’ productivity, it is mandatory that employers play a cogent role. This role must enforce workers to wear a face mask, to help protect and reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

Employers have a legal duty to establish and maintain a safe work environment under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the common law. In order to fulfill this responsibility in the new COVID-19 environment, many companies would need to enforce policies that require masks for workers, customers and other workplace visitors. If the protection of a healthy work environment is accomplished by mandating masks, then workers should obey such policies.

It is commonly advised that if employers need to allow workers to wear masks in the workplace, the employer should draft a specific policy, include masks and educate employees on how to use a non-medical mask properly.

wearing a mask in the workplace

Do Employers really need to comply with By-laws to reduce the spread of Coronavirus?

In certain cities, such as Ottawa and Toronto, employers and government agencies must follow certain requirements of public health that include mandatory mouth, nose, and chin face covers for representatives of the public and private spaces employees.

The employer must create a mask policy and specify who is excluded from the policy in workplaces where workers are required to wear masks in compliance with any by-law. It should also not be left out to educate staff and customers on policy and explain the mask policy. It is necessary to require that all employees, customers or visitors wear a mask indoors, without some exceptions, to further render wearing nose mask a necessity.

In a beautiful city like Toronto for instance, people excluded from wearing a mask include school and child care facilities, hospitals, health care services, and regulated health professional offices. The likes of children younger than two years are not allowed to wear a mask because their lungs are not powerful enough to have masks on their noses. Individuals with medical conditions which inhibit their ability to wear face cover are also exempted from putting on their masks.

Many workers in Canada make excuses of not wearing a mask maybe because of disabilities or something similar. Some workers may claim to have a medical condition which prevents them from wearing a mask. If an individual refuses to wear a mask due to an impairment, this would be regarded like any other excuse.

The employer may obtain medical evidence to justify this exemption but also to find all other ways to accommodate the employee in a fair way. Perhaps, the employee would be able to wear a different kind of mask, or alternate face cover that would comply with guidelines for public health. If not, the employee might be able to work from home or in a remote environment where they can still maintain social distance.

If an employee is unable to comply with a mask policy under any conditions, the employer may have to decide if the employee will continue to work at all, without creating unnecessary inconvenience to the employer.

Some workers do reject masks because they do not like them or they do not believe in them. Employers may make policies mandating masks if they feel it is appropriate for the purposes of health and safety. Employees operating under these measures cannot refuse to wear a mask without a compelling justification relating to their health and safety or a Human Rights Code protected ground that would entitle them to fair acceptance up to the point of unreasonable hardship.

If your employee refuses to wear a mask in the workplace despite your rules for no valid reason, this may create an unhealthy work atmosphere for other workers. This, in turn, puts the employer at risk of breaching his legal obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to maintain a hazard-free workplace. In some of these circumstances, the insubordination of the employee can warrant a suitable disciplinary response.

Consequences of not wearing a mask in Canada

Employers in Toronto for example, will face a fine of up to $ 1,000 for non-compliance with the statutes of their employees not wearing face masks. Ottawa, on the other hand, originally relied on companies to behave in good faith but passed a by-law allowing a fine to be levied up to $500 on July 15th, 2020. The Coronavirus pandemic has created a new legal framework that has not completely developed, but basic legal principles will help foresee some further repercussions for employers who disobey local by-laws and public health standards by failing to follow mask policies. Masks continue to help flatten the curve in countries around the world, especially highly populated cities.