As doctors prepare for a potential ‘tripledemic’ at the end of the summer, people working in an office may wonder what they can do if they are working alongside someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who may be suffering from another illness such as the flu.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, various policies were in place to limit the risk of illness, including quarantine requirements, sick leave legislation and working from home.
Last year, the federal government legislated 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated employees, which came into effect in December 2022. The same year, British Columbia implemented five days of paid sick leave. paid permanent sick leave.
But other provinces have a mix of rules.
For example, Quebec workers are entitled to two days, whereas this was also the case in this province before the pandemic. Meanwhile, Ontario ended its sick leave program last March, ending workers’ ability to access three paid days under the province’s temporary program.
But as some companies have dropped working from home and provinces have dropped quarantine requirements, it could mean you’re working next door to someone who is sick.
Jon Pinkus, Labor and Employment Group Partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, said if an employee has such a concern, the first thing they should do is raise it with management.
He said that in Ontario, the Ministry of Labor expects employees to try to solve the problems before going any further and determining if there is a practical solution.
“That’s what every employee should do and that’s what every employer should consider if someone comes to them with this kind of complaint,” he said.
He added that if a resolution is not reached, a government inspector could be called in, but the inspector would work to determine if the employer was following provincial guidelines.
For example, if quarantine requirements were to be reinstated in Ontario and an employer didn’t follow them, Pinkus said an employee shouldn’t be penalized for refusing to come to the office — in effect, an inspector would likely order the employer to send the sick person home.
But workers should be careful when they refuse to come, because it could also depend on the employer.
“So employees have to be careful and not just a*sume, ‘Well, that sounds dangerous to me, so I’m not going to accept it,'” Pinkus said.
That’s why medical professionals and doctors say paid sick leave is still needed across the country.
Dr Mara Waters, an infectious disease physician and member of the Decent Work and Health Network (DWHN), said a lack of sick days can lead to more people working while sick.
“They might feel like their boss might think they’re unreliable and might lose shifts,” she said. “So it is with great moral distress that people go to work sick.”
A November 2022 report from the National Partnership for Women and Families found that people without paid sick leave were 1.5 times more likely to report coming to work with a contagious illness.
Waters added that some studies have shown that paid sick leave won’t be a huge cost to employers.
For example, a Center for Future Work study a**lyzing a proposed 10-day sick leave policy in British Columbia found that it would increase business costs by 0.21 percent of existing spending. This province finally made it possible for eligible employees to have access to five paid sick days provided they had worked for their employer for at least 90 days.
“When people get sick, it means more people get sick, more people use health care money, and it comes from the public purse,” Waters said. “There really is no financial downside to offering paid sick leave..”
However, as advocates continue to push for paid sick leave, Pinkus said while it may not be mandatory, employers should consider having a clear policy regarding employees who work while on duty. ‘They are sick.
“It’s always a good thing if you want to prevent conflicts from arising,” he said. “Having a clear policy that you can point out to the employee is a sign that it’s not vague.
“Exactly what will happen if someone is sick with COVID and cannot get to their place of work is very specific. Here are the steps we want to take, here are your rights under this policy, so an employee doesn’t have to wonder, “Is this legal under the Occupational Health and Safety Act?” »
He added that it also gives employees the opportunity to decide whether they want to continue working in the organization if, for example, they are not comfortable with this policy.
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