MNP Article – April 2, 2020: Strategies to Preserve Your Workforce
- Your workforce is essential to the survival of your business. While employers strive to contain financial losses, COVID-19 threatens both the health and the employment of valued workers. This article outlines some suggestions for protecting these important resources.
Employer information regarding COVID-19, informed by a Dentons webinar:
- Employers can recommend no travel – An official global travel advisory is in effect. Avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice
- You have a right to ask employees to self-quarantine after travel.
- Employer obligations are:
- Reasonable precautions
- Communication of hazards
- Reasonable precautions include:
- Written plan
- Education on infection prevention (handwashing etc.)
- Require employees to stay home if sick
- Require employees to stay home if they have traveled to an affected area
- Require employees to report the location of travel
- Post signs to communicate these instructions
- Regular cleaning
- Make disinfectants available
- Engage a third-party medical advisor
- You are required to report to WCB within 3 days if you think an employee contracted COVID-19 during employment.
- Employees are entitled to benefits.
- They cannot pursue a lawsuit if its processed through WCB
- If in doubt about work-related infection, best to report anyway
- Also advisable to report to public health unit
- There is a risk of litigation if an employee decides the employer did not keep them safe. This happened after SARS.
- Privacy obligations remain in place: until a public health emergency is declared.
- PIPEDA, BC PIPA permit the collection of employee personal information without consent if it is collected for managing the employment relationship and if the employees are notified in advance that the information will be collected
- Emergency Consent Exception:
- disclosure necessary for medical treatment and consent cannot be given
- disclosure is in the person’s interest and consent cannot be obtained in a timely manner
- disclosure is to contact next of kin, friend of the sick person
- There is no official obligation to report illness to government, but you should keep a record.
- Employees must have reasonable cause to refuse to work. Retaliation is prohibited: try to satisfy workers about their health and safety.
- If a public emergency is declared privacy legislation can be overridden, but other rights and protections may still apply
- if you collect information, have a reasoned basis, provide notice including information about why you are collecting it and how it will be used
- assure employees it will be protected
- do not keep it indefinitely. when you don’t need it anymore, destroy it
- Enhanced EI coverage has been announced by government.
- Access more detailed information about the current federal government aid package.
- Be attuned to:
- mental health issues due to fear, financial stress, isolation
- potential discrimination in the workplace with respect to employees under disability or from certain countries
- who in your company should be on a COVID-19 Operations Team?
- Should you hire a third-party digital medical provider to help decide who should stay home etc.
- Do you wish to require ALL employees who have a cold or flu to stay home?
- Will employees be compensated for all or part of any time away whether they are ill, quarantined, or caring for someone else
- Company travel restrictions
- Visitors to site or workplace
- Crisis communications system for personnel
- Review workplace by function: why can work remotely if needed, which are critical to operations, are there essential public service functions
- Be cautious at this time if you are considering ending employment
- The WHO has stated that “the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.”
- Create a remote work policy if you don’t already have one
- ensure your remote IT systems can handle the extra activity
- consider reminding employees of confidentiality clauses about work documents that leave the premises, as well as OHS requirements for themselves when working from home