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A Employer’s Guide to the Face Mask Policy in Toronto

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It is now mandatory to wear a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces in Toronto. The City of Toronto recently passed a temporary by-law to this effect, which came into force on July 7, 2020.

Businesses and organizations open to the public must adopt this mandatory face mask policy. No member of the public is to be allowed entry into such establishments unless they are wearing a mask or face covering. The mask or face covering should cover the nose, mouth and chin, without gapping.

What are the regulations for when to wear a mask?

In Toronto, you have to wear a face mask at:

  • Retail stores, grocery stores, malls, shopping centres
  • Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, or other places of worship
  • Community centres, including indoor recreational facilities
  • Libraries, art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos
  • Community service agencies providing services to the public
  • Banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums, and other event spaces
  • Premises used for real estate purposes, such as open houses & presentation centres
  • Common areas in hotels, motels and other short-term rentals
  • Concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos, and other entertainment facilities
  • Inside restaurants and bars (except when having a meal or drink)
  • Indoor recreational facilities, gyms, swimming pools — except when actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity or when performing a fitness activity (such as swimming) that would make wearing a mask hazardous.
How are businesses required to comply with the by-law?

Businesses and organizations open to the public must have a policy in place to ensure compliance. They must not allow entry to customers or visitors not wearing a face mask or covering. Employers must ensure that their workers wear a mask or face covering when working in an enclosed public space.

Businesses have to post clearly visible signage at all entrances to their premises, which states:

ALL PERSONS ENTERING OR REMAINING IN THESE PREMISES SHALL WEAR A MASK OR FACE COVERING WHICH COVERS THE NOSE, MOUTH AND CHIN AS REQUIRED UNDER CITY OF TORONTO BY-LAW 541-2020

Employers must also train their staff on their policy and the by-law. The business owner should have a copy of the policy ready for inspection by any person authorized to enforce this by-law.

What is classified as a face covering?

A mask or face covering includes a face mask, balaclava, bandana, scarf, cloth or any such item that covers the nose, mouth and chin without gapping.

Where are masks not required?

This by-law does not apply to schools, post-secondary institutions and child care facilities. Also, excluded are private transportation and public transportation. Hospitals, independent health facilities and offices of regulated health professionals are also exempt. Please note that the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) made face masks mandatory on all TTC vehicles from July 2, 2020.

Are there any fines?

The amount of the penalty for non-compliance is not clear yet. As per the by-law, a violation of any of its provisions is an offence. On conviction, the offender is liable to a fine as provided for in the Provincial Offences Act.

Are there any exemptions?

Yes. Children under the age of two don’t have to wear a face mask. People with a medical condition that makes it difficult to wear a mask are exempted. Those unable to place or remove a mask without help are also excused. Employees who work behind a physical barrier or at businesses not open to the public are also exempted.

Persons who are reasonably accommodated by not wearing a mask under the Ontario Human Rights Code are also excused.

Want to know your employer obligations surrounding COVID-19 health and safety?

For advice on health and safety policies during the pandemic, call an expert today: 1 (833) 247-3652.