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The world economy is continuing to rapidly globalize. Every household in Canada contains products that were produced outside of Canada and our economy is increasingly dependent on the willingness of citizens of other countries to consume our products and services. 

While expanding global trade is a positive trend, it is inevitable that the movement of products and people across borders will present threats, whether in relation to heath or otherwise. It is in this context that employers can contribute to ensuring safe and healthy workplaces while promoting prosperity through expanded trade in goods and services.

The following are examples of how this can be done.

Educate Your Employees

Employers would be wise to inform their employees of the symptoms, risks and preventative measures associated with conditions such as the coronavirus.

Employers can, for example, find out more information about coronavirus and other diseases, including prevention measures, by accessing the following resources:

Limit Travel

Employers, where appropriate, may consider limiting all non-essential travel to regions affected by a specific condition and keeping employees informed about government warnings concerning travel.

Employers would also be wise to alert employees who are travelling to Canada from disease-affected areas that they may be asked questions at the border relating to, for example, coronavirus, and may be required to undergo a health screening.

Review Policies

Employers should consider reviewing their safety procedures and emergency action plans to ensure that they include infection disease protocols that are compliant with the Occupational Health Safety Act and Regulations.

Modification to existing protocols may be necessary to address a potential pandemic (whether relating or coronavirus or otherwise). Employers should ensure that any policy in place includes contact information for employer representatives who can provide additional information to workers about how the coronavirus may impact their safety in the workplace.

Take Extra Hygiene Precautions

Employers should take action to limit the spread of illness by, for example:

  • Providing hygienic products such as respiratory masks, and hand sanitizing stations when appropriate;
  • Encouraging hand washing amongst employees; and
  • Disinfecting equipment and workstations routinely.

Monitor and Contain

Employers should be aware of and monitor their employees for symptoms associated with a condition. If an employee begins to show signs of exposure employers should:

  • Instruct the employee to work from home (or provide a leave of absence) and require the employee to provide medical documentation demonstrating fitness-for-duty/return-to-work if appropriate.
  • Encourage the employee to seek medical attention.
  • Monitor and notify employees immediately if they are at any risk of exposure.

Accommodate

Employers should be sure to accommodate employees up to the point of undue hardship by, for instance, allowing employees to attend at medical appointments and take time off work to recover from any illness.

Additionally, employees should make themselves aware of, and if necessary, utilize any workplace policies relating to working from home, attending appointments, or other types of accommodation. If an employee does not make the proper effort to communicate and follow workplace policies relating to being ill, these changes can lead to termination of employment.

Take Action

If an employer is concerned that an employee has contracted a condition representing a risk to public health (including coronavirus), they should consider:

  • Asking the employee to leave the workplace immediately and seek medical attention;
  • Contact the local health department;
  • Taking measures to clean and disinfect the workplace;
  • Assess exposure to other employees;
  • File any required workers’ compensation claims necessary if the condition was contracted at work or in relation to a work-related activity (business travel).

If you have any questions about managing illnesses such as the coronavirus or health issues at work in general, including whether there may be recourse as a result of wrongful dismissal or unjust dismissal due to illness, we can help. Further, if you are an employer requiring appropriate guidance in taking safety measures for employees please contact Toronto employment lawyers Sultan Lawyers by emailing mlahert@sultanlawyers.com or by calling 416-214-5111.


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