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COVID-19: Steps to Take if an Employee at Work Tests Positive

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As the Omicron wave recedes and provinces lift restrictions, employers must ensure they are following provincial health and safety guidelines as they reopen for business.

Employers in Ontario, Alberta and BC are required to have a COVID-19 safety plan for their workplace. It is important that employers communicate their COVID-19 policies and safety protocols to their staff and clients.

Encourage your staff to stay home if they are feeling unwell and inform you if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms. Ensure employees are aware of provincial paid sick leave provisions (BC, Ontario) and the provision for paid time off to get vaccinated. Inform them about federal income support programs, such as the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. If possible, offer flexible work options to staff who may need to stay home to self-isolate or to care for a sick family member. Encourage your employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

It is also advised to have a protocol to follow in case an employee at work experiences COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for the virus. The protocol should clearly list the steps to be taken and your employees should be briefed about it as well.

This becomes especially significant now that Ontario and Alberta have limited the eligibility for PCR tests to high-risk individuals or those who work in high-risk settings. BC, too, recommends testing certain individuals, such those immunocompromised, hospitalized, pregnant, unvaccinated or at risk of severe illness.

What should I do if an employee in the workplace experiences COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive?

We recommend that you take the following steps:

  1. Ask your employee to go home right away to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace.
  2. Review the areas in the office where the employee has been since the onset of symptoms.
  3. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the said areas immediately. Remember to clean and disinfect touch points such as door handles, elevator buttons, desks, chairs, coffee machine, any computer or electronic equipment, etc.
  4. Advise those in close contact with the affected employee to self-monitor for symptoms. You may want to consider extra precautions or restrictions for close contacts, especially for the elderly or those with health issues. Any close contacts who aren’t fully vaccinated should be advised to stay home and work from home, if possible.
  5. Ensure your employee is aware of the isolation requirements in your province:

Alberta

Those with a positive test result must isolate for at least five days if fully vaccinated, or 10 days if partially or unvaccinated. Those with positive test result and symptoms, must isolate for the same periods or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. Free COVID-19 rapid antigen testing kits are available in the province for at-home use. PCR tests should be only booked if the affected person falls into the high-risk category.

The employee should also inform all close contacts from the previous 48 hours and ask them to self-monitor for symptoms and avoid crowded spaces.

BC

Those who are fully vaccinated and test positive, must self-isolate for five days. They can return to work once their symptoms improve and they no longer have a fever. Those not fully vaccinated, must self-isolate for 10 days. They can return to work if their symptoms have improved, and they no longer have a fever.

Ontario

Those fully vaccinated who test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms are required to self-isolate for five days. Those severely immunocompromised must self-isolate for 20 days after onset of symptoms or positive test date, whichever happened first.

Those not fully vaccinated, immunocompromised individuals (but not severely), and those hospitalized for COVID-19 related illness must isolate for 10 days after onset of symptoms or positive test result date, whichever happened first.

  1. Employees can return to work after their isolation period is over. A doctor’s note or a negative test result is not required for returning to work.
  2. Ensure you keep your employee’s health information confidential unless you are authorized by the employee to share it.

Do you need help creating policies to manage COVID-19 in the workplace?

Our experts can help you create company policies, and with any HR, health and safety and employee management advice you may need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652.

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