Ontario's new stay-at-home order - Retail Council of Canada
Coronavirus | Ontario

Ontario’s new stay-at-home order

January 12, 2021

The Ontario government has announced a new emergency stay-at-home order, which will restrict Ontarians to leaving home for essential activities only. These activities include shopping (curbside as well as in-person), essential work, fitness and medical reasons. This order extends the lockdown to February 3, 2021.

RCC continues to push very hard to advocate for the safe reopening of all retailers (with reduced capacity limits), but due to rising COVID-19 cases, this will not be coming in the immediate term.

We are anticipating that the stay-at-home order will cause some disruption, particularly as the police and municipal by-law officers come to understand what the definition of “essential work” includes. RCC’s understanding is that workers for non-essential retailers running curbside sales are performing “essential work”, and should not be harassed by enforcement officers.

Businesses will not be required to issue written verification for employees that are an essential worker. Should an enforcement official stop your staff, no proof or verification is needed beyond a verbal statement by the employee that they are on their way to work. RCC will continue to work with Ontario and the OPP to ensure efficiency in enforcement.

In addition, there are new restrictions on hours of operation for retailers. Pick-up/in-store purchases must occur between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. for:

  • Retailers selling alcohol or cannabis
  • Retailers who are deemed “non-essential” and are conducting curbside sales
  • Restaurants

Retail operations for those above are not allowed to occur beyond those hours. This means that only grocery stores, big box/discount retailers selling groceries, and pharmacies will maintain the ability to sell beyond those hours.

There will be restrictions on construction and manufacturing. RCC will provide more information on this as it becomes available. Finally, outdoor social gathering limits are reduced to five persons, and mask wearing is required in all public spaces.

RCC will continue to advocate to the government for the safe reopening of all retailers.

For more information, email Sebastian Prins at sprins@retailcouncil.org.

View RCC Media Statement on further Ontario restrictions

View government’s announcement

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an employee stay later than 8pm?
Based on RCC’s conversations, the answer is yes, so long as no products are provided to customers between 8pm and 7am. In other words, if an employee is staying past 8pm to complete closing, to do inventory checks, or to prep orders for the next day, that is fine.

Are employees included in the 50% or 25% capacity calculations for essential retail?
Employees are excluded from all capacity calculations for essential retail. Ontario has made it clear that store capacity limits are for customers only (not customers + employees). After using the RCC capacity calculator, you need only ensure that there are no more customers in the store than that figure.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions provided by the Government of Ontario

Why is the province issuing a stay-at-home order while also permitting curb-side pickup?
This question assumes every single person in Ontario has easy access to online shopping or that there is a big-box retailer in their community. This isn’t the case for many Ontarians who live in rural and remote areas.

We’ve learned a lot over the past year responding to this pandemic, including the fact that what may be essential to someone in Timmins and how they buy that item may not be essential to someone in downtown Toronto, who can easily buy items online for delivery. The Government of Ontario determining what retailers may be considered essential risks cutting off many Ontarians who don’t live in Toronto or an urban centre from access to necessary goods.

What is an essential item?
The Government of Ontario cannot determine what is essential for every person in this province, each with their own unique circumstances and regional considerations. Legally defining what is essential risks cutting people off from goods that may legitimately be necessary for their health, well-being and safety.

What is an essential trip?
The Government of Ontario cannot determine what is essential for every person in this province, each with their own unique circumstances and regional considerations. That said, we have provided broad categories that people should consider before leaving their home: food, health-care services, including medication, exercise or work, where someone’s job cannot be done at home.

What is essential work?
The stay-at-home order does not define what work or jobs are essential. Rather, it now mandates that anyone who can work from home must now do so. For example, someone working in retail obviously can’t do their job from home and would be permitted to go to work.

Why hasn’t the province defined who can or should work from home?
The Government of Ontario cannot review tens of millions of job descriptions to determine who can work from home. As such, we are relying on the best judgment and common sense of employers to determine who can do so. If an employee believes they should be working from home, they can contact the Ministry of Labour to file a health and safety complaint.