Business Guidance: Employee Diagnosed with COVID-19

This guidance is for employers of individuals who have received a positive COVID-19 test result.

People who test positive are recommended to stay home and should notify their close contacts and employer.

  • If the employee did not work during their infectious period: (Infectious period is 48 hours prior to symptoms starting, or the positive test if no symptoms)
    • This means no exposure at worksite and other staff members are not contacts.
  • If the employee did work during their infectious period:
    • Scenario A:  Employee works alone, consistent mask use and is physically distanced (at minimum 6ft) from coworkers for the duration of the work shift. Other staff members are not contacts 
    • Scenario B:  Employee keeps mask on during all interactions with coworkers, meal breaks are taken alone. Other staff members are not contacts and should monitor for symptoms.
    • Scenario C:  Employee does not keep mask on during interactions with coworkers such as shared meal breaks. Other staff members are close contacts.

Guidance for close contacts can be found here, including for the 10 days after exposure, monitoring for symptoms, working from home as much as possible, or when at work, practicing physical distancing especially when eating or drinking.

Positive cases are recommended to stay home when unwell and self-isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Business Closure

Business closures are an operational/business decision made by the organization, based on their individual situation (e.g. number of staff who are sick, etc.).

Cleaning and Disinfection

If the business has been following regular cleaning and disinfection, no additional measures are required. If regular cleaning has not occurred, surfaces which the positive case may have contacted should be cleaned and disinfected immediately.

As an employer, what should I do if a worker has tested positive for COVID-19 that could be the result of an exposure at the workplace?

If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19 that could be related to an exposure at the workplace, please see information for employers prepared by the Workers Compensation Board (WCB).


Find Business Help

The situation with COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Find accurate, up-to-date information, including when to seek help :

Frequent Questions for Employers

If an employee has to quarantine, is the employer responsible to pay for that time? 

Under the Employment Standards Act, the employer would not be required to pay the employee. 

If the workplace is covered by a collective agreement, employers may consult with their collective agreement and discuss the matter with the union if there is some question on the interpretation of any of the leave and pay provisions.

Should an employee be laid off during the quarantine period so they can access employment insurance (EI) benefits?

There's no requirement for employers to terminate or lay off employees under the Employment Standards Act to create EI eligibility. 

What are the ramifications if an employer does not pay staff during this time?

From the employer's perspective, under the Employment Standards Act there would be no ramifications, unless they are laying staff off or terminating staff. 

Does the quarantine count as sick leave?

Yes, under Government of Canada employment insurance rules. 

Do companies have the right to impose their own policies related to employee leave during this time?

Yes, so long as the policies are in compliance with the Employment Standards Act and other legislation (e.g. human rights or Occupational Health and Safety) and advice or directives from public health. 

Does a business owner have the right to remove someone from their establishment who is not following public health recommendations (e.g. not practicing physical distancing)?

Yes, employers have the obligation to take every reasonable precaution to protect the occupational health and safety of persons at or near the workplace – see Occupational Health and Safety Act, s.12(1).

This involves assessing the risks of the workplace and taking appropriate action to either eliminate or, if that is not possible, to minimize those risks. 

If an employer determines that someone is posing an undue risk to the health and safety of individuals in the workplace, they are obligated to address the risk. This could involve refusing to provide services to a person engaged in the risky behavior or providing adequate protection to their workers.

Are there any additional steps business owners should take to protect employees' health, as well as their own health? 

All employers and workers should follow the preventative guidelines set out by the Chief Public Health Office.

Do employees who are essential workers have to self-isolate?

Learn more about COVID-19 self-isolation.

Are there any extra precautions for businesses in high-risk areas such as pharmacies? 

As with any place of employment, employers must assess the risks of their workplace and take appropriate action to either eliminate or minimize those risks. Businesses that provide health care services, such as pharmacies and clinics should review their protocols for reducing the risk of transmission or exposure to ensure that risks are minimized.  

Where can I find information about workplace safety during COVID-19?

For workplace safety information during COVID-19, visit the Worker's Compensation Board.

Get Accurate Information

Make a Plan – Being Prepared is Good Business

  • Make sure you have a business continuity or emergency plan in place. 
  • Think about what you will do if a number of your employees become sick 
  • Support employees who may become ill. Talk to your staff about flexible hours or alternative work options should they need to stay at home for an extended period 
  • Support proper infection prevention and control measures in your business. Post hand washing signs, provide alcohol based hand rub to encourage frequent hand hygiene and ensure space/surface cleaning is completed. 
  • Avoid requesting doctors’ notes from employees who become sick or self-isolate
Published date: 
April 24, 2023