Essential services

Essential services may refer to a class of occupations that have been legislated by a government to have special restrictions in regard to labour actions such as not being allowed to legally strike.

The International Labour Office, a United Nations agency, makes distinctions between an essential service and a minimum service.[1]

Industries defined as essential services differ based on the organization or government, but generally include services such as hospitals and other healthcare, utilities such as electricity and water supply, law enforcement and firefighting, and food services.

Public health emergenciesEdit

"Essential services" may also refer to those services that are vital to the health and welfare of a population and therefore are essential to maintain even in a disaster.[2] During the COVID-19 pandemic, many jurisdictions ordered non-essential services to close for a period of several weeks in an effort to control the spread of the virus.[3] The United States Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a nation-wide guidance document that defined activities that the Agency had determined to be "essential" to the control of the pandemic and the management of its effects.[4]

Examples of industries where at least some workers were classified as "essential" during the pandemic included:

  • Health Care/ Public Health / Human Services
  • Law Enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water and Wastewater
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Public Works
  • Communications and Information Technology
  • Other Community-Based Essential Functions and Government Operations
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Supply Chains
  • Retail and Wholesaling
  • Food Services and Accommodations
  • Institutional, Residential, Commercial and Industrial Maintenance
  • Manufacturing and Production
  • Construction
  • Financial activities
  • Resources
  • Environmental Services
  • Utilities and Community Services
  • Communications Industries
  • Research
  • Justice Sector
  • Business Regulators and Inspectors


  1. ^ International Labour Organization Archived October 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Freedom of association - Digest of decisions and principles of the Freedom of Association Committee of the Governing Body of the ILO. Fifth (revised) edition, 2006.
  2. ^ Template:Cite food web
  3. ^ (1) "COVID-19: Essential Services". Archived from the original on March 26, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
    (2) staff, Web (March 24, 2020). "What is an essential service in Ontario?". CP24. Archived from the original on March 27, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
    (3) AuthorIANS. "COVID-19 Lockdown: What constitutes essential services, and how govt responds". Telangana Today. Archived from the original on March 27, 2020. Retrieved March 27, 2020.
  4. ^ "Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Homeland Security: Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: Office of the Director. March 28, 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 2, 2020. Retrieved April 3, 2020.