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Preparing for a Pandemic: Coronavirus in Your Workplace

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Ryan Wozniak, Senior Vice President of Legal and Operations, Peninsula

As the number of coronavirus cases in Canada grows, it is increasingly important for everyone to play their part in containing its spread. Care must especially be exercised in public spaces and workplaces, which are frequently large, open and high in density, making it easy for the virus to be transmitted. However, many Canadian businesses do not have a plan for dealing with the coronavirus. How can employers prevent its spread to their workplace and what should they do if they have an employee who has contracted the virus?


Preventative Measures for Businesses

Travel

Employers should make employees aware of government travel advisories, discourage vacations to affected areas and cancel any work-related travel at this time. Employers should be flexible and accommodating with how employees choose to get to work, as some may prefer to avoid taking public transit.

Hygiene

Common spaces should be cleaned daily, thoroughly and frequently. Frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, phones, keyboards, desks, and countertops should be disinfected often. Employers should also remind employees of correct hygiene procedures when washing hands when handling equipment and products and to cough and sneeze into tissues or into the crook of their elbow. Tissues, hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, face masks, and disposal bins should be made available to staff in your workplace.


Preparing for a Pandemic

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines on its website for employers to follow when preparing their business to react to a pandemic. Employers are advised to allow absences due to personal illness, the illness of family members, community containment measures and quarantines, school and business closures and public transportation closures.

Managing Sick Employees and Absences

All employees exhibiting relevant symptoms, even if they are mild, should be told to self-isolate at home according to regular company sick leave procedures. Employees should also be advised to visit a health care practitioner and to inform their public health authority.

Since the recommended quarantine period for the coronavirus is 14 days, many businesses would have to make the exception and go beyond their regular sick leave allowance. As some employees cannot afford to miss pay, employers should consider providing paid sick leave to ensure that they are able to remain at home.

Can I send an employee home as a precaution if they aren’t sick?

Employees who are not yet experiencing symptoms can be sent home as a precaution if: 1) they have recently travelled or have been in contact with someone who has travelled or is sick, 2) they are provided full pay. However, employers must be careful to only send employees home if they have good reason to do so. Sending an employee home without reasonable cause could lead to a discrimination claim to the business.


Ryan Wozniak

Ryan graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2005 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2006. Prior to joining Peninsula, Ryan practised litigation for 14 years with a particular emphasis on employment law. Ryan has appeared as lead counsel before all levels of court throughout Canada, including the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Court of Appeal for Ontario, the Commercial List court, the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the British Columbia Supreme Court, the Tax Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as before federal labour arbitrators.


About Peninsula

Peninsula is a trusted HR and Health & Safety advisory, serving over 80,000 small businesses worldwide. Clients are supported with ongoing updates of their workplace documentation and policies as legislation changes. Additionally, clients benefit from 24/7 employer HR advice and are protected by legal insurance. Contact us today to learn more about how we help employers succeed: 1-833-247-3652.

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