COVID-19 in the Canadian Workplace
With the increasing focus on COVID-19 in Canada, there is also an increasing concern about ensuring that we do our due diligence in providing a healthy workplace. As this has now been declared a Pandemic, the focus on ensuring all staff are diligent is key.
Here are some basic preventative measures that we can all share with employees:
1) Good hygiene practices including frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer is still the best way to prevent spread of illness.
2) Being aware of and limiting or ending "subconscious habits" such as touching your face or shaking hands as a greeting.
3) If you need to cough, be sure to use your elbow and not your hands to cover your face.
4) Avoiding attendance at very large gatherings and sitting in close proximity to others in public spaces are also good ways to prevent the spread of illness.
There are also a number of travel related concerns ( especially for those wanting to escape the cold and head oversees). Here is the current list ( as of March 11) of the areas that have travel advisories:
~All Cruise Ships
If you have staff that are planning travel to these areas, it is highly recommended that you have a conversation to ensure they are aware of the advisory and any quarantine procedures.
Ensuring that your travelling employees disclose that they have flu like symptoms, were exposed to someone with COVID-19 or flu like symptoms in an identified region or that members of their household have had contact can also assist in identifying if their health may pose a risk to the workplace.
Those employees who are required to self-isolate due to illness should be informed to discuss their situation with their manager and stay in regular contact with the workplace throughout the 2 week period.
There are many different options for how to manage quarantined staff members and a "one size fits all" approach may not be the best solution. Considering options such as work from home agreements, use of sick time or applying for EI benefits may also ease the financial burden that comes from an extended absence due to illness.
As an employer, there is also an obligation to ensure that policies and practices are based on factual risk and not designed around employee fears or unsubstantiated concerns. One of the best ways to avoid these challenges is to ensure that your practices include informing employees of official information, posting reminders on hygiene and reviewing, updating and re-distributing out-of-date business continuity and pandemic policies.
The balancing act between alleviating fear, ensuring a safe workplace and not discriminating or mistreating employees can be a difficult one. If you would like more information on how we can help your organization manage through the COVID-19 Pandemic or other workplace challenges, email us at email@example.com