Going back to work after COVID-19 may not mean everything is back to normal. It may be hard to imagine, but there will be a day when we all return to work after the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the workplace we return to will look a lot different than the one we left. We’ll need to get used to a new normal.
In this article, we’ll look at whether you’re required to go back to work if you feel unsafe, travelling for work during COVID-19, and social distancing at work, among other things.
Do you have to go back to work if your employer asks?
Eventually, most of us are going to be returning to work. That begs the question; do you have to go back to work if your employer asks? You don’t have a choice in the matter if they request your presence in the office. The law is clear. You have to go back to work or face termination.
However, your workplace has to must be safe. That means your employer has to meet health and safety guidelines set out by the government. Nevertheless, you may still feel some anxiety about returning to work, and that’s normal.
To be prepared to return to work from working from home, there are some things you can do, such as asking the right questions. Start by asking about the safety procedures that will be in place to help stop the spread of Coronavirus.
As an employee, it’s a good idea to ask if PPE and other protections will be available.
For example, if you’re a cashier at a retail store, find out what payment methods are going to be accepted and whether they’ll be any physical barrier between the customer and you. You’ll also want to find out about physical distancing measures put in place.
What if you don’t think your work is safe?
If you believe that your employer hasn’t done a good enough job putting safety measures in place, you could engage in something known as work refusal. This is a formal process when you let your employer know about your refusal, and your employer has to try to solve the problem.
If your boss, human resources, and you can’t come to a resolution, the Ministry of Labour steps in. The Ministry of Labour inspects the workplace based on the complaint and rules on whether your workplace is a safe place to work and meets current safety standards. The Ministry of Labour’s decision is binding.
If the Ministry of Labour rules that the workplace is unsafe, the employer has to make the changes. However, if the ministry rules in favour of the employer, the employee has to return to work.
It’s important to note that during an ongoing investigation by the Ministry of Labour, the employer can’t require you to work.
If you refuse to work, you may still be able to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The government doesn’t want anyone to work in unsafe working conditions.
Are workplace investigations going to happen more often these days?
The provinces have said that they expect an uptick in the number of workplace investigations. As such, the provinces are hiring more inspectors.
With a large number of businesses set to reopen in the coming weeks and months, expect this to be a big issue for provinces to grapple with. The increased demand for inspectors means that they could be running around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What makes the Coronavirus Pandemic more challenging for inspectors?
We’re in uncharted territories. Inspectors may not be prepared to handle these types of situations and are more used to testing a machine to make sure it’s safe or if there’s proper equipment for operating heavy machinery.
Inspectors aren’t used to assessing whether a work is safe from the COVID-19 pandemic. Public officials typically handle health-related issues.
What if you return to work, but catch COVID-19?
In a situation like this, your best option is to seek compensation through workers’ compensation. Generally speaking, you wouldn’t be able to take legal action against your employer, according to employment lawyers.
Even if your employer was negligent in any way, you’d have to seek your recourse by applying for workers’ compensation. This would be viewed similarly to an accident or injury at the workplace.
If your workplace isn’t covered by legislation put in place for workers’ compensation, you could take legal action through a law firm if your employer was negligent.
But this often easier said than done. Proving that you became infected with COVID-19 at work could be difficult. How do you know it wasn’t someone at the supermarket, someone walking down the street or family members that infected you? It’s hard to prove it was due to your workplace.
What if an employee is ill?
Anyone who is ill should think about the steps they can take to prevent the spread of any illness; this includes COVID-19. If you have a respiratory disease, take extra precautions.
- Your employer should encourage you to stay home.
- If you develop COVID-19 while at work, you should be encouraged to sit apart from other workers, and you should be sent home without reprimand.
- Make it as easy as possible for workers to stay home. Don’t require a doctor’s note for when someone says that they have a respiratory illness. Doctor’s offices are busy these days and may be unable to provide a note promptly.
- It’s a good idea that to be screened before each work shift to make sure you’re not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- Employers should remind staff to self-monitor daily to make sure they aren’t coming into work sick.
- Travelling during COVID-19
If you’re an employee of a company and you’ve recently travelled outside the country, it’s essential to be aware that the Canadian government has specific rules in place for travellers returning home.
If you’re a traveller returning to Canada, you’re required by law to self-quarantine for 14 days. You can’t report to work and must avoid all contact with other people for 14 days. During that time, you should be watching for any symptoms of COVID-19.
Coming back to work after self-quarantine
If you’ve developed symptoms of COVID-19, the government requires you to self-quarantine for 14 days at home. You must remain there from the day you developed the symptoms. You can go back to work after 14 days if you no longer have a fever and aren’t showing any symptoms.
If you’re an employee reporting into the workplace during COVID-19, you should use the government’s self-assessment tool. Do this before each shift to make sure you aren’t showing any symptoms you may not be aware of. You should also keep a close eye on yourself daily to make sure you aren’t showing any signs.
Social Distancing at Work
Social distancing means staying at least two metres away from people not in your household. To uphold social distancing, the Canadian government and health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending the following distancing measures.
- Let employees work from home or work flexible hours to avoid overcrowding in the office.
- There’s increased space between workstations in the office.
- Employees can take staggered lunch breaks to avoid too many people in the lunchroom at the same time.
- Encourage staff to take safety precautions. The safety precautions include washing your hands with soap and water and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Clean surfaces used for eating ahead of time.
- Reduce the amount of time spent in common areas, such as break rooms, lunchrooms, and photocopy centres.
- Avoid in-person meetings as much as possible. Use the telephone and video conferencing whenever possible (even when you’re in the same building).
- When in-person meetings aren’t possible to avoid, have meetings in a large room where there’s plenty of space.
- Postpone or cancel any non-essential travel, meetings, and workshops.
- Avoid close contact with others. Use elbow bumping to great someone instead of shaking their hand.
Are you unsure of what it will be like to go back to work after COVID-19 restrictions ease up? Make sure you understand all the requirements. And don’t forget to make sure your financial house is in order!
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