What is an Essential Worker in Canada?

Classifying essential workers, their responsibilities, and state requirements.

Essential Workers Canada

May 22nd, 2020

Essential workers are individuals who perform services that are critical to maintaining the health, safety, security, and economic well-being of the population. In Canada, the list of workers who are considered essential varies by province and territory.

Essential Worker Categories:

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian government stated that essential workers are those "critical to preserving life, health, and basic societal functioning." Workers across a variety of industry sectors performing services that support the critical infrastructure are deemed essential. Critical infrastructure refers to all the processes, systems, facilities, technologies, networks, assets, and services necessary for effective government, public safety, and the basic functioning of society.

It is important to note that this list only covers main categories of essential services and that the list of workers and services designated as essential varies by province and territory. Employers should, therefore, check with their local government bodies regarding the situation in their province or territory.

1. First responders.

First responders are individuals that provide immediate assistance when there is an accident or emergency.

Examples of first responders:
  • Firefighters.
  • Police officers.
  • Paramedics.
  • Emergency medical services personnel.
  • 911 call center employees.

2. Healthcare workers.

Healthcare professionals deliver essential services that cannot be interrupted or shut down under any circumstances. They play a critical role in preventing diseases and provide healthcare treatment, performing vital services such as testing and research, patient care, administration of medication, and more.

Examples of healthcare workers:
  • Nurses.
  • Doctors.
  • Pharmacists.
  • Dentists.
  • Psychologists.
  • Social workers.
  • Technicians.
  • Caregivers.

3. Energy and utilities.

Workers in the energy and utility sector are considered essential as they ensure the supply of electricity, water, and sanitation services.

Examples of workers essential to energy and utilities:
  • Engineers.
  • Technicians.
  • Risk analysts.
  • Utility workers.
  • Business analysts and developers.
  • Plant operators.

4. Critical goods.

Maintaining a steady supply of critical goods, such as food and medical supplies, is vital. Therefore, workers in every stage of the supply chain for critical goods, from manufacturing to transport and sales, are deemed essential.

Examples of workers essential to the supply of critical goods:
  • Grocery stores.
  • Pharmacies.
  • Farmers.
  • Food processing workers.
  • Warehouse workers.
  • Production workers.
  • Sales personnel.

5. Information and communication technology.

The information and communication technology (ICT) sector plays an important role in keeping the public informed of the state of things, news, official directives, developments, and more.

Examples of essential ICT workers:
  • Call center operators.
  • Network service providers.
  • Media services.
  • Telecommunication services.
  • Technicians.
  • Datacenter operators.

6. Manufacturing.

Manufacturing workers that are responsible for the production of materials and products that support the maintenance of critical infrastructures, such as the medical supplies for health services, are considered essential workers.

7. Government.

Government workers providing services that are necessary for the safety or security of the public and the efficient functioning of government are considered essential.

8. Transportation.

Workers that provide and support transportation services, including air, rail, and road transport, are considered essential.

  • Rail crews.
  • Air crews.
  • Air traffic controllers.
  • Truck drivers.
  • Maintenance mechanics.

9. Financial services.

Financial services are considered essential and therefore employees ensuring the continued functioning of financial systems and services are also considered essential workers.

Learn more about essential businesses by province/territory.