Toronto and Other Municipalities Introduce Bylaws Requiring Businesses to Implement Mandatory Mask or Face Covering Policies

July 13, 2020

To slow the spread of COVID-19, several municipalities (including the City of Toronto, the City of Ottawa, the Region of Durham, the Waterloo Region, York Region, Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka) have adopted rules, orders and/or bylaws requiring individuals to wear a mask or face covering in enclosed indoor public spaces.

Since the rules, exemptions and implementation dates vary among the municipalities, employers will need to carefully review the applicable bylaws and orders for each of the municipalities in which they conduct business.

Actions Employers Must Take

To adhere to the applicable bylaws and orders, employers will need to create and implement a policy prohibiting all members of the public – with some exceptions - from entering the premises, if the person is not wearing a medical mask or face covering.

Generally, this policy must be communicated to all staff and customers (including through the posting of visible signage at the entrances of all establishments).

An appropriate mask or face covering must completely cover an individual's mouth, nose, and chin. Face shields are not typically considered to be an acceptable alternative.

The exemptions vary among municipalities. For example, in the City of Toronto, the following individuals are not required to wear a mask or face covering:

  • Children under two years of age
  • Persons with an underlying medical condition which inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering
  • Persons unable to place or remove a mask or face covering without assistance
  • Employees and agents of the business within areas designated for employees only and not for public access, or within or behind a physical barrier
  • Persons who are reasonably accommodated by not wearing a mask or face covering in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Notably, in the City of Toronto, the employer's policy shall not require employees or members of the public to provide proof that they fall within the exemptions set out above.

Businesses and Establishments Requiring a Policy

As with exemptions, the application of the bylaws and orders varies among municipalities. In the City of Toronto, for example, an “establishment” is broadly defined and applies to most indoor spaces that are openly accessible to the public, and includes:

  • retail stores
  • convenience stores
  • malls, shopping plazas
  • grocery stores, bakeries
  • farmer’s markets (indoor sections)
  • restaurants, bars (indoors, when permitted to open) [the by-law allows for temporary removal of a mask or face covering when receiving services (such as having a meal) or while actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity.]
  • indoor recreational facilities, gyms, swimming pools (when permitted to open) [Except when engaging in a fitness activity (e.g. swimming) that would make wearing a mask difficult or hazardous.]
  • libraries
  • community centres
  • day camp activities taking place in indoor facilities open to the public
  • community service agencies
  • personal service settings
  • churches, mosque, synagogue, temples and other faith settings
  • art galleries, museums, aquariums, zoos
  • banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums, and other event spaces
  • open houses and presentation centres for real estate purposes
  • common areas in hotels, motels and short-term rentals (e.g. lobbies, elevators, meeting rooms)
  • entertainment facilities, including concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos

Notably, the following is a list of establishments that are express exemptions from the City of Toronto's bylaw:

  • schools, post-secondary institutions, and child-care facilities
  • private transportation and public transportation (the TTC has its own bylaw, effective July 2, that mandates the use of masks or face coverings when travelling on the TTC);
  • hospitals, independent health facilities and offices of regulated health professionals.

Next Steps for Employers

  • Employers should carefully review the applicable bylaws, rules and orders for each of the municipalities in which they conduct business.
  • If required to do so, employers must develop a policy governing and requiring the use of a mask or face covering.
  • If implemented, employers should communicate and train staff on the implementation of the policy.
  • If required to do so, employers must post signs at entrances reminding individuals to wear a mask while within the establishment. Notably, the content of this signage may vary by municipality. For example, in the case of the City of Toronto, the sign must contain the following text:


Similar bylaws / orders are expected to come into effect in other municipalities, such as Brampton, Markham, and Mississauga.

Should you require assistance with confirming the rules and bylaws applicable to your organization or drafting an appropriate policy, please reach out to a member of our Employment Group directly.

Any future developments will be posted on this blog.

The author would like to acknowledge the support and assistance of Jillian Skinner, articling student at law.

DISCLAIMER: This publication is intended to convey general information about legal issues and developments as of the indicated date. It does not constitute legal advice and must not be treated or relied on as such. Please read our full disclaimer at

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