COVID-19: Ontario Hints at New Single-Employer Order for Developmental Services

April 23, 2020

The Ontario government hinted today that a new order may soon be issued restricting employees of Developmental Services (DS) agencies from working in more than one “congregate care” setting.   See the full news release here. 

This announcement (with no order or details yet released) comes more than a week after a similar single-employer was issued for Long-Term Care (LTC) Homes and Retirement Homes in Ontario, and almost a month after a similar order for LTC homes was issued in British Columbia.  See our discussion of those orders here.

It remains to be seen whether an order for the DS sector will merely restrict workers from working for multiple DS agencies, or whether the order will address cross sectoral staff sharing.   We would strongly encourage the powers that be to acknowledge the substantial number of staff that are shared amongst agencies in the DS, LTC, Retirement, Home Care and Community Services and related sectors and to ensure that any order adequately captures and addresses the risk of cross contamination posed by workers working across sectors.  Unfortunately the current orders for LTC and Retirement Home employees do not appropriately limit the cross sectoral sharing of staff, potentially resulting in the spread of COVID-19 infection from outbreaks in LTC and Retirement Homes (by some estimates there are more than 200 current outbreaks) to other sectors that support vulnerable people.

Many employers in the DS Sector have already unilaterally taken measures to restrict (or “silo”) staff to a single location, which has  prevented outbreaks in a single home from spreading across an agency in a number of cases.   In the face of a rising number of outbreaks in the DS Sector, still other agencies have implemented a single-employer rule unilaterally for their employees.   A new order from the government may vindicate the proactive steps taken by these employers and hopefully undermine any legal challenges that staff or unions may bring challenging such restrictions.

Stay tuned for all the details on the new orders anticipated from the government in the coming days.

Note: This article provides general information only and does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as, legal advice or opinion. PooranLaw Professional Corporation holds the copyright to this article and the article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of PooranLaw Professional Corporation.