As the number of coronavirus cases grows across Canada, more people are growing concerned about how to prevent the spread of the illness and how to avoid it themselves.
The number of confirmed cases in Canada has grown to 27 as of March 2, 2020. Fortunately, risk to the public remains low and infected individuals are being monitored in isolation.
However, if the spread of the virus continues, Canadian businesses will be affected. Employers will have to deal with employees who are worried about coming into work, shortages of workers and business, and potentially closures. Here’s what employers need to know about the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
What is the coronavirus?
COVID-19 is an illness caused by a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans. Symptoms can be mild or serious and can take up to 14 days to appear. These may include a cough, fever and difficulty breathing. The coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes, transmitted during physical contact or touching your eyes, nose or mouth after contact with an infected person.
How to Avoid the Coronavirus
There are several things that can be done to minimize risk of infection:
- Frequently wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds
- Do not touch your nose, eyes or mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid people who are sick
- Cough and sneeze into elbows or tissues, and dispose of them immediately
- Stay home if you are ill
How can employers protect their business?
Employers should implement the same measures as when preventing the spread of the flu. Workplaces should be equipped with hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and tissue boxes, and frequently touched surfaces should be wiped down often.
Employees who are sick should be advised not to come into work and to consult a medical practitioner. If possible, sick workers should be allowed to work from home until they are no longer contagious.
How to Manage Sick Employees
Employers must provide, at the very least, the amount of sick days required by their provincial Employment Standards legislation. Employers should consider providing paid sick leave, as some employees cannot afford to miss pay and are therefore more likely to come into work sick and spread their illness. Your company policy on employee illness should be compliant with the law and should be set out in employment contracts and the employee handbook.
Coronavirus Advice for Business Owners
Employers may face situations where employees are reluctant to come into work because they are worried about contracting the virus. In certain circumstances, employees are permitted under occupational health and safety legislation to refuse work they reasonably consider to be unsafe; however, as the current risk to the general public in Canada is low, employees may
have a hard time justifying such refusal to work. This may change in the coming weeks if the risk level and rate of infection increases.
Employers are advised to avoid sending employees to China and other countries with a documented outbreak of COVID-19 for business. If an employee has recently visited an affected country for personal reasons, employers should inquire whether they’ve been in contact with anyone who was exhibiting symptoms or if they are experiencing any symptoms themselves.
If an employer has good reason to suspect an employee could have contracted the virus, it might be safer to have them work from home or request the worker stay home with full pay for 14 days, the standard quarantine period, to see if they exhibit any symptoms. Employers may request that such employees provide medical clearance prior to returning to work. If the employee begins to experience symptoms, advise them to inform their provincial public health authority and follow their advice.
Employers should give their employees as much advance notice as possible that the employee may be required to work from home or remain at home with full pay on return from affected countries.
Is your business prepared to deal with the coronavirus?
Do you know what to do if your business needs to have a temporary closure or needs to lay off employees due to the coronavirus? Speak with our HR experts to learn how to protect your employees and business. Call us today at: 1 (833) 247-3652.