Though COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, employers still have a duty under the health and safety law to create a safe workplace for all staff. With COVID-19 cases rising again, you should continue to follow precautionary measures in the workplace, such as physical distancing and hand hygiene. Private businesses in all jurisdictions may also want to continue requiring their employees to wear masks, undergo passive screening, be vaccinated, and participate in COVID-19 testing in the workplace.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, encourage your staff to stay home if they are feeling unwell. Advise them to inform you if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms. Ensure your staff is aware of provincial paid sick leave provisions, and the provision for paid time off to get vaccinated. 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.
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:
- Ask your employee to go home right away to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace.
- Review the areas in the office where the employee has been since the onset of symptoms.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ensure your employee is aware of the isolation requirements in your province:
Those with symptoms or a positive test result must isolate at home for five days from the start of symptoms. You must wear a mask for the next five days while in indoor spaces with other people. The employee should also inform all close contacts from the previous 48 hours and ask them to self-monitor for symptoms for 7 days after their last exposure.
If you test positive but don’t have symptoms OR if you have symptoms and test negative, you should isolate and take a second test 24 hours later.
If both tests are negative, you should stay home until your symptoms improve and you don’t have fever (without using medication) for 24 hours as you may have some other virus that could be passed on to others
Proof of a negative COVID-19 test and/or a medical note is not required to return to work.
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.
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.
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.
Employers across jurisdictions must ensure the employee’s health information is kept confidential unless you are authorized by the employee to share it.
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