The importance of following public health measures on COVID-19 cannot be emphasized enough. Provinces across Canada, especially Quebec and Ontario, are currently seeing a sharp rise in daily case numbers.
Most provinces have set down hefty fines for violation of public health measures, such as use of face masks and self-isolation. For instance, non-compliance with the self-isolation order in Toronto can cost violators up to $5,000.
Employers must take all reasonable precautions to keep COVID-19 out of the workplace. This includes setting down clear policies on COVID-19 and sharing them with your staff.
Your COVID-19 workplace safety plan must include:
- Risk assessment of your workplace
- Safety controls to be installed
- Use of PPE
- Screening procedures
- Physical distancing measures
- Sanitizing and disinfection protocols
Is the employer liable if a worker does not self-isolate?
If an employer is aware of an employee’s symptoms and still allows the employee into the workplace who then infects co-workers, the employer may be held liable.
Recently, an Ontario employee lost her job for failing to self-isolate while awaiting her COVID-19 test result. She later tested positive. When she challenged the termination, the arbiter dismissed her grievance as the employer had clear policies in place.
The employer had informed all workers about the company policies and Public Health guidelines. It was clear that employees had to self-isolate while waiting for their test results. The employee had violated the company policies and Public Health guidelines by failing to self-isolate.
Setting down clear policies and sharing them with your staff will prevent outbreaks in your workplace. It will also protect you from liability claims.
What things should employers keep in mind when communicating COVID-19 policies to staff?
We recommend employers take the following steps:
- Employers should keep staff informed of updates to Public Health guidelines. They should remind employees of company policies on the pandemic. You could share information through emails, posters in common areas, and team meetings.
- If you have a multicultural workplace, provide information in all languages spoken by your staff. Create easy-to-understand posters using graphics and illustrations.
- Train employees on health and safety procedures.
- Ensure all workers know how to stay safe while commuting to work.
- Advise your staff to always monitor their symptoms. Make sure they know about the COVID-19 self-assessment tools (Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario) available online.
- All employees should know they must self-isolate while waiting for their COVID-19 test result.
- If employees experience COVID-19 symptoms at work, they should go home straight away.
- Remind employees to stay home when unwell and report the matter to their manager. Have a flexible sickness policy so that employees do not feel compelled to come in to work if they are ill.
- Inform your staff of income support programs for workers on sick leave due to COVID-19.
- Let your staff know of the available mental health resources and support.