Overview

This guide will help employers in non-healthcare workplaces understand what to expect for workers returning to the workplace after covid 19 self-isolation. The information is based on the Ministry of Health guidance.

Workers returning to the workplace after self-isolation

To help stop the spread of covid 19 and prevent outbreaks, people must self-isolate if they:

  • have covid 19
  • have had close contact with someone with covid 19

This means staying at home except for medical emergencies and, as much as possible, avoiding contact with others in the household.

Your local public health unit is notified about all confirmed covid 19 cases. The public health unit will follow up with the individual to ask about contacts and provide direction on self-isolation and testing. Workers should always follow the direction of public health officials and their doctor.

As explained below, there are two reasons a worker may be required to self-isolate – because of potential exposure or infection. The actions required may be different for fully immunized workers and previously positive workers (see Ministry of Health Interim CCM Guidance - Fully Vaccinated Individuals (gov.on.ca) for more information).

Self-isolation because of potential exposure

The purpose of self-isolation after exposure is to prevent a person from infecting others before they know they are infected because it can take some time after exposure for infection to appear (either as symptoms or in a positive covid 19 test). This is also called quarantine.

Requirements for self-isolation after exposure are determined by local public health unit staff based on the level of risk of the exposure. Individuals with high-risk exposures are considered close contacts.

In general, a worker must self-isolate for 10 days if they were in close contact with someone with covid 19 or who is likely to have covid 19 (as determined by public health).

An asymptomatic fully immunized or previously positive worker may not be required to self-isolate after a close contact. They should:

  • wear a mask and maintain physical distancing when outside of the home
  • self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days
  • self-isolate immediately if they develop symptoms
  • report their exposure to their employer and follow any employer directions

Any other worker who has had a high-risk exposure must self-isolate for the full 10 days even if they have a negative test during this time.

Workers can return to the workplace after 10 days of self-isolation if they have not developed symptoms or tested positive.

Requirements for self-isolation (quarantine) after travelling out of the country are set by the federal government. A worker who has travelled outside of the country and been told to quarantine must self-isolate for 14 days.

Workers do not need a negative covid 19 test to return to the workplace after self-isolating for the full period.

Self-isolation because of COVID-19 infection

A person who has covid 19 must self-isolate so they can’t infect others. This is the same for everyone, whether fully vaccinated or not.

Standard covid 19 tests (not rapid antigen tests used for screening) determine if a person with symptoms has covid 19. The test can also determine if someone who was exposed is infected, even if they have no symptoms.

Workers who have been tested because they have symptoms must remain in self-isolation while waiting for test results. If the test is negative, the worker may return to the workplace if they do not have a fever and their symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

All workers, including fully vaccinated and previously positive workers, must self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days if they:

  • test positive on a standard covid 19 test
  • are told by their health care provider or a public health official that they have covid 19

The self-isolation period is at least 20 days if the worker either:

The self-isolation period starts from when the worker’s symptoms started or the day they were tested, whichever is earlier.

Workers can return to the workplace after their self-isolation period if they have no fever and their symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours.

Workers who have been tested because they have symptoms must remain in self-isolation while waiting for test results. If the test is negative, the worker may return to the workplace if they do not have a fever and their symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours  (and 48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea/vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain).

Workers do not need a negative covid 19 test to return to the workplace after self-isolating for the full period.

Use of this document

This resource does not replace:

It should not be used as or considered legal advice. It doesn’t restrict or affect the discretion of local medical officers of health to exercise their statutory powers under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

Updated: August 30, 2021
Published: December 16, 2020