COVID-19 Increased Public Health Restrictions & Provincial Emergency Order

I am writing to update you on how the University of Toronto is responding to recent government announcements regarding additional public health measures that impact the University and its employees.

On January 4, the City of Toronto announced the implementation of additional public health measures for workplaces to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. On January 12, the Provincial government announced that the entire Province of Ontario would enter our second state of emergency, and at the same time a stay-at-home order was issued.

The University has been operating under various restrictions throughout the pandemic, including most recently the Provincial shutdown that took effect on December 26, 2020. We have demonstrated our flexibility and ability to operate within these restrictions, and will continue to do so under the increased public health measures and during the Ontario state of emergency. As always, the University remains committed to taking all reasonable measures to help protect the health and well-being of its community. Our existing infection control measures and COVID-19 response plans are regularly updated and compliant with the measures recently announced by Toronto Public Health and the Province.

Working Remotely and On-Site

Our shared objective is to limit the spread of COVID-19. To do this and to comply with the Provincial state of emergency, the University requires all employees whose work can be performed from their homes do so until further notice.

If you must come to the University (for example, faculty members whose research or recording of courses must happen on campus or staff whose duties require them to be on-site in the workplace), you can continue to come to campus and enter your workspace. However, individuals cannot compel others who can complete their job responsibilities from home to join them on-site. All individuals who currently have access to buildings continue to have access. As a reminder, anyone who comes to campus must complete a COVID-19 self-assessment prior to doing so.

If you are a staff member required to work on-site due to the nature of your job responsibilities, your manager will issue you an “on-site” letter confirming that your duties will continue on-site. If you have been working on-site but can complete your job responsibilities at home, your manager will issue a “return to remote work” letter. Managers and supervisors can access these letter templates in the COVID-19 Leadership Toolkit under the HR & Equity Management Resources section.

Mask Compliance

If you are working on-site, wearing non-medical masks or face coverings is required in all indoor University spaces (including University-owned and leased spaces), whether restricted-access or open to the public. In leased spaces, occupants can also be subject to additional policies and guidelines of the building owner or manager.

Information on mask requirements at the University, including accommodation information, is available in the Joint Provostial and Human Resources Guideline on Non-Medical Masks and on the Environmental Health & Safety COVID-19 website.

Reporting Positive COVID-19 Cases to Toronto Public Health

The University of Toronto currently notifies Toronto Public Health when we become aware of two or more people who test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day interval in connection with University of Toronto workplaces. The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is also notified as necessary.

Twice a week, the University of Toronto posts the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among U of T community members publicly on the UTogether website. Please note that this website does not indicate where cases were acquired or transmitted; most cases were not acquired on campus.

Infection Prevention Measures

The University of Toronto has robust strategies to help prevent COVID-19 infection on our premises. These strategies include:

  • limiting the number of individuals on campus;
  • requiring all individuals coming to campus to complete a COVID-19 self-assessment;
  • providing hand sanitizer and hand-washing facilities in work and rest areas;
  • conducting rigorous and frequent environmental cleaning in all high-touch areas;
  • actively monitoring and conducting regular reviews of our HVAC systems; and
  • implementing physical barriers, space markers, and other distancing strategies throughout the workplace to ensure physical distancing of at least 2 metres.

More detailed information about these and other strategies can be found in the following guidelines, the COVID-19 Leadership Toolkit and on Environmental Health & Safety COVID-19 website.

Support for Employees

The University of Toronto is committed to supporting any employees who need to self-isolate due to symptoms of COVID-19, are being tested for COVID-19, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms as outlined by the provincial government.

University of Toronto employees with employment benefits that include paid sick leave should consult their collective agreement or employment policies to see if benefits apply in the event they need to self-isolate. Otherwise, unpaid leave is available for self-isolation. Employees who take unpaid leave can explore federal COVID-19 benefits and services to support them during the leave. If you need to explore these options, please reach out to your Divisional HR Office for guidance.

We also appreciate the challenges faced by parents and guardians who continue to care for their children at home, while also trying to fulfill their job responsibilities remotely. We understand that striking a balance between these responsibilities will be especially challenging as schools temporarily shift back to fully online learning.

Managers, Chairs, and Division Heads are asked to be as supportive as possible in permitting flexible hours, vacation time, lieu time, staff wellness days, and ultimately unpaid leave if necessary. Academic administrators may consider alternative approaches to the distribution of workload, including alternative scheduling/timing of teaching and service assignments for faculty members. The Family Care Office is available to employees as a resource to consult, advice, and support on these matters.

This continues to be a challenging time for our community. We want to acknowledge and recognize the outstanding work and dedication of our faculty, librarians, and staff as the University continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that these are trying times and that circumstances are changing quickly, often daily.

If you need support, please visit the University of Toronto Wellness Hub for additional resources. Additional services are available through the confidential Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP), 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Contact information is as follows:

(Toll-free) 1-800-663-1142
(TTY) 1-866-398-9505
(Collect) 604-689-1717