Federal government suspends return to office plan for workers

Medical officer asks the same of businesses

Federal government suspends return to office plan for workers

The Omicron variant is pushing back return to the office plans.

The federal government has asked its departments to pause their return-to-office plans as the said variant of COVID-19 spreads.

The updated occupational health guidelines from Health Canada asks that departments and agencies “pause any planned increases to building occupancy,” review current in-office levels and consider increasing the amount of remote work, Mona Fortier, Treasury Board president, pointed out in a statement Thursday evening.

“Employees are also asked to avoid participating in any discretionary large gatherings, such as conferences and training events,” according to the statement.

The Treasury Board did not indicate when phased-in return-to-office plans might resume, according to a report from Ottawa Citizen.

Recently, Ontario also asked employers in all industries in the province to continue asking employees to work from home whenever possible. That announcement come after the City of Toronto announced it would be welcoming fully vaccinated employees back to the office starting Jan. 4, 2022. Toronto has since suspended return to the office plans.

Meanwhile, the medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph has also issued an order instructing business owners to allow their employees to work from home if possible.

The order will take effect on Monday, according to a report from CBC.

"Each person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall ensure that any person who performs work for the business or organization conducts their work remotely, unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace." said Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health, in a release.

However, the over provides exemptions for workers or organizations in any government operations or delivery of services, including healthcare.

"With the growing presence of the Omicron variant, now is the time to protect our progress," Mercer said.

Recently, Ontario announced enhanced measures – including testing and vaccination – for staff, residents and visitors of long-term care (LTC) and retirement homes amid the Omicron threat.

With the variant now circulating in Canada, employers need to make sure that they are still keeping COVID safety top of mind, said Andrea Jacob, occupational health and safety specialist with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), in speaking with Canadian Occupational Safety.