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COVID-19 FAQ: Employee management

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Helping your employees feel safe and secure

Managing employees can be difficult on a normal day, much less during a pandemic. Here are our business counsellors’ answers to some of your most common questions about management, including layoffs, back to work, mental health and protective measures.

Human Resources                OHS               

Human Resources

If my employees are laid off, can they work while receiving EI?

Employees can work while on claim using the workshare program.

This is a three-way agreement with the employee, employer and Service Canada that takes about 30 days to negotiate. If the employer has already put this in place, Service Canada will waive the 30 days of negotiation.

The first CERB period for an employee is the first 4-week period where they have not earned more than $1000 in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 consecutive days. Should you be eligible for EI this will not necessarily be the first CERB period (March 15 - April 11, 2020). Should you not be eligible for EI these 14 or more consecutive days will be within the four-week benefit period of your claim.

Subsequent CERB periods are the 4-week in length. If you are eligible for EI, this will not necessarily follow the CERB period schedule. If you are not eligible for EI, this will follow the CERB period schedule. An employee can earn $1000 in employee income and/or self-employment income in each period and still claim CERB.

The provincial temporary layoff deadline is coming up for my employee to be automatically terminated. What should I do?

Some provinces will allow you and your employee to apply for a variance - essentially requesting an extension to the temporary layoff period. You will need to contact your provincial employment standards to determine if this is an option and how to make the application.

The Work-sharing Program permits you to reduce an employee’s hours by up to 60% (i.e. from 40 hours per week to 16 hours per week) and the government provides a top-up through the Employment Insurance program. In order to qualify for the Work-sharing Program you will need to have at least 2 employees in the same department who are willing to reduce their hours.

Depending on your jurisdiction, you may be able to create “rolling layoffs”, where employees work four weeks on and four weeks off, for example.

All of these suggestions require the participation of the employee. If they are not in agreement and the temporary layoff period ends, you will have no choice but to make it permanent. At this point, if notice was not paid/given at the time of the initial layoff, you will need to fulfill that obligation. Depending on jurisdiction, you may also need to pay severance.

The need for clear, concise, and transparent communication cannot be overstated. A permanent layoff is usually not the best solution for either party (having to find a new job, having to train a new worker, severed access to benefits, having to pay severance, etc.). As long as your worker feels that your cards are on the table and an amicable agreement is in their best interest as well as yours, one of these solutions might just offer you the chance to keep your business open through these tough times, so that you can regrow it once again.

Can I terminate an employee during the pandemic?

Terminating an employee is never an easy decision, and it’s even more difficult during a pandemic. It’s important to take into consideration:

  • Employment Standards requirements,
  • Human Rights,
  • the Common Law (outside of Quebec), and
  • Jurisdictional temporary COVID-19 provisions (if applicable)

If you wish to terminate an employee, please contact your CFIB business counsellor to discuss your situation and find out your rights and obligations.

What should I do if one of my employees refuses to come to work because they’re worried they will catch COVID-19?

Provincial Health and Safety legislation allows an employee to refuse work if they feel it is unsafe. Health and Safety in the workplace is an employer priority and the responsibility of all those in the workplace.  It is important to talk to the employee about their concerns, explain to them all the safety measures put in place at the workplace to keep employees safe, and ask the employee what would make them feel safer. Including employees in these decisions lets them know their voices are heard and that their safety really is a priority.

Should the employee still feel that they are unsafe in the workplace past the point of accommodation, you may need to request the complaint in writing and involve your provincial Ministry of Labour/Department of Occupational Health and Safety to investigate your workplace to make a health and safety ruling. If the complaint is deemed reasonable, then you will be required to accommodate the employee. If the complaint is deemed unreasonable, then you can require the employee to return to work.

Having a COVID-19 Health and Safety policy in place will help to clearly show the measures that the business has taken to keep workers, customers and suppliers safe. It should also provide information on how employees can report concerns. In some jurisdictions, a COVID-19 Health and Safety policy, or a COVID-19 operational plan is a requirement to re-open your business. Check with your Business Counsellor to find out what is needed in your province/territory.

What can I do about an employee refusing to come back to work?

Work refusals are becoming more prevalent with COVID-19 Health and Safety concerns. Make sure you keep the below in mind when dealing with employee work refusals.

  1. Create a business pandemic policy to communicate and educate employees about your new workplace expectations and measures in the workplace.
  2. Keep the lines of communication open with your employee. Ask for the work refusal reasons in writing/email. The situation is likely to fall into the below categories:
    1. Health and Safety concern (fear of getting sick)
    2. Sickness (from Covid-19 or not)
    3. Caring for or living with a dependent or at-risk demographic (child or parent)
    4. Communicating, but not willing to come back to work
    5. Not communicating (job abandonment)
  3. Determine if there is any way that your business can accommodate the employee’s situation. Health and safety in the workplace are the employer’s priority and the responsibility of all those in the workplace. Should there be an opportunity to accommodate a reasonable concern, then it will be the responsibility of the business to consider accommodations to the point of undue hardship. Accommodation can take many forms such as providing more PPE, allowing an employee to work from home, or allowing an employee to use a protected provincial/territorial/federal leave of absence, if available.
  4. Keep documented proof. Whether it’s accommodations for an employee who feels unsafe in the workplace, or weekly registered letters sent to an employee to prove a history of non-responsiveness, it is always advised that you keep communications with employees in their employee files.
I called my employee(s) back to work, but they are not showing up and I have not heard from them since. What recourse do I have?

It is important to remember that an employee’s non responsiveness cannot be assumed to be a resignation. Thus, an employee’s refusal to report to work, or his or her absence without justification or resignation letter, cannot automatically be interpreted as a voluntary departure/resignation.

If you are unable to communicate with your employee, you are required to follow up with them in a verifiable method such as registered mail. This letter should come from a place of concern for the employee and request that the employee provide you with an update on their situation. The letter should in no way be threatening or presumptive. Should the employee persist in being non-responsive, you should continue to document this history of non-responsiveness before considering job abandonment or frustration of contract. These situations should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If you are in this situation, please contact your Business Counsellor or employment lawyer.

What do I do with employees who cannot return to work because they are taking care of a dependent (child or parent)? What do I do if my employees don’t feel safe sending their children to school or daycare?

Pre-COVID-19, an employee who does not return to work could be disciplined up to and including dismissal; however, our current situation is very unique and will require drastic changes in the workplace. Employers will be required to be flexible and accommodate employees who cannot return to work. Each employee will likely have their own needs that should be managed on a case-by-case basis.

Here are some tips for managing the situation:

  • Talk to your employee about their situation and what their needs might look like. Is this a matter of health and safety in the workplace? Is this a matter of being available to watch the dependent?
  • Determine if there are any accommodations that you as the employer can provide, such as working from home or a change in their job description to allow them to do work from home.
  • Check to see what provincial, territorial and/or federal protected leaves might apply to your employee. As provinces move to re-open, following public health guidelines, your employees are expected to return to work in a safe workspace.
  • Call your CFIB Business Counsellor to discuss your employee’s situation and how to find the best solution for both of you.

Note that some jurisdictions have enacted protections for employees who are unable to work due to COVID-related reasons; talk to your Business Counsellor before disciplining an employee in this situation.

One of my employees refuses to return to work because they live with someone who is at risk (someone who is 70 years old or older, has a weakened immune system, or a chronic illness). What can I do?

Pre-COVID-19, an employee who does not return to work could be disciplined up to and including dismissal; however, our current situation is very unique and will require drastic changes in the workplace. Employers will be required to be flexible and accommodate employees who cannot return to work. Each employee will likely have their own needs which should be managed on a case-by-case basis.

Here are tips on managing the situation:

  • Talk to your employee about their situation and what their needs might look like to feel safe coming into the workplace. In these situations, it is not uncommon for the employee to be afraid of coming into the workplace altogether.
  • Determine if there are any accommodations that you as the employer can provide, such as telework, working from home or a change in their job description to allow them to do work from home, or leave without pay.
  • Check which provincial, territorial, and/or federal protected leaves might apply for your employee. for personal or family leave that may apply to this situation. As provinces move to re-open, following public health guidelines, your employees are expected to return to work. Under normal circumstances, an employee who does not return to work could be disciplined up to and including dismissal.

Note that some jurisdictions have enacted protections for employees who are unable to work due to COVID-related reasons; talk to your Business Counsellor before disciplining an employee in this situation.

  • We know that these situations are not always easy or clear. Call your CFIB Business Counsellor to discuss your employee’s situation and how to find the best solution for you and your employee.
My employee is invoking their right to refuse unsafe work - what do I do?

Under Occupational Health and Safety legislation, employees have a right to refuse work if they have reasonable grounds to believe it is dangerous to their health or safety. Remind your employees of the preventive measures that have been put in place, and the safety products available to them. This may help mitigate instances of employees refusing to work due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Each employee has a duty to report any dangerous situation to their supervisor. The employer then has a duty to take remedial action by having the workplace health and safety committee and/or representative investigate. In some cases, a government health and safety officer may need to investigate as well.

The employer may choose to reassign work. In this case, the employee must receive the same wages and benefits as they would have received under their previous assignment.

Please review the OH&S legislation in your jurisdiction for guidance on further reporting responsibilities or talk to a CFIB Business Counsellor.

What are the new T4 reporting requirements for 2020?

For the 2020 tax year, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has introduced additional reporting requirements for the T4 slip, "Statement of Remuneration Paid." This will apply to all employers and will help the CRA validate payments made under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).

In addition to reporting employment income in Box 14 or Code 71, all employers must report all employment income (including retroactive payments) made to employees in four defined periods in 2020 by using the corresponding new “other information” codes below:

  • Code 57: Employment income – March 15 to May 9
  • Code 58: Employment income – May 10 to July 4
  • Code 59: Employment income – July 5 to August 29
  • Code 60: Employment income – August 30 to September 26

For example: if you are reporting employment income for the period of April 25 to May 8, payable on May 14, use code 58.

Eligibility criteria for the CERB, CEWS, and CESB is based on employment income for a defined period. The new requirement means employers should report income and any retroactive payments made during these periods.

As the year is coming to an end, employers are reminded that they are obligated to provide T4 slips to any employee they have paid in 2020. Failure to issue this slip may result in penalties.

For more information about T4 reporting requirements, go to Information for employers: CRA and COVID-19.

ROE Web is freezing and not working - what should I do?
  • Provide a copy of the employee’s pay stub or a copy of the to-be-filed” ROE to the employee
  • File the ROE when possible on ROE web

We know this is very frustrating. CFIB is raising this issue with the government.

In the meantime, the fastest way for an employer to submit their ROEs is still online through ROE web. Although paper ROEs seem like a quick solution for businesses it will not help Service Canada work more efficiently.

For employees applying for EI, know that employees can always provide Service Canada with pay stubs/a copy of the ROE to create an interim ROE while waiting for their employer’s ROE.

Do I need to file an ROE when laying off employees, and how do I complete it?

When laying off employees you will be required to file a Record Of Employment (ROE).

An ROE has to be filed when there is an interruption of earnings of seven days (known as the seven-day rule). The interruption of earnings occurs when there are seven consecutive days with no work and no insurable earnings, or when an employee’s salary falls below 60% of regular weekly earnings due to illness, injury, quarantine, pregnancy, etc.

If you are filing the ROE electronically, it must be issued within 5 calendar days of the end of the pay period in which the employee’s interruption of earnings occurs. If you are using a paper ROE, it must be issued within 5 calendar days of the employee’s interruption of earnings, or the date you became aware of the interruption of earnings.

There are two ways to complete the ROE:

1. Through ROE web either by using a:

  • Select Sign-In Partner; or
  • GCKey

Note: Service Canada will require a second method of verification which they will send by mail before you gain access to ROE web.

2. Calling Service Canada 1-800-622-6232 for a Paper ROE (unavailable at the moment)

For more information please read the steps to complete the ROE.

How do I code the ROE?

CODE A

Shortage of Work (Layoff)

When you are laying off employees due to a shortage of work or a temporary business closure.

CODE D

Illness or Injury

When an employee is absent due to illness, quarantine, or ordered self-isolation.

CODE E

Quit

When an employee quits their job or refuses to come into work.

CODE H

Work-Sharing

When you have received approval to participate in the work-sharing program and the employee needs to apply for benefits.

CODE N

Leave of absence

Can be used if an employee is unable to work; for example, schools and day cares are closed and so they must stay home with a child.

DO NOT put any comments in the comments box on the ROE; this will slow down processing as the ROE will need to be reviewed manually.

Service Canada offers a block-by-block guide to completing the ROE.

For now, the eligibility criteria remain unchanged. We will update the information if the government announces special measures.

What is a SUB plan or Top-Up” plan?

Updated 2020-05-04: Service Canada is now allowing businesses to top up” their employees’ wages if they are receiving CERB up to a threshold of $1000/CERB period.

The Supplemental Unemployment Benefit Program is designed for businesses who do want to top-up or increase their employees’ weekly earning when they are unemployed due to a temporary stoppage of work, training, illness, injury or quarantine. These SUB plans need to be registered with Service Canada and are not considered as earnings and therefore are not deducted from EI benefits. These are supplementations of the employer’s side

For more details see the SUB plan guide.

Employees working from home: how do I make this work?

For many businesses, the COVID pandemic may be the first time they’ve had to consider having employees working from home. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to ensure productivity even while the team is geographically separated.

  • Staying connected: communication will be more important than ever. As well as e-mail, consider a cloud-based platform such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype or Facebook Workplace to allow for instant messaging. You can create group chats so members of internal teams can have virtual meetings and even conference calls without needing the telephone.
  • Be clear in your expectations: Is it more important that employees work a certain number of hours or that they complete a certain task? How often should employees check in? Be mindful that employees may have unavoidable distractions such as child-care due to school closures.
  • Make sure employees have what they need: Not everyone will be set up for working from home, so talk to employees and make sure they have what they need to do their job. Don’t assume that employees have landlines, printers, fast internet connection, etc.
  • Be patient: This is a time of huge turmoil for everyone, and some employees will adapt better than others. Acknowledge the stress your employees are feeling and work with them to find solutions.

If employees are concerned about working from home, you can share with them our top tips for a productive home office.

What will happen to my workers on open work permit and/or international students?

Workers with open work permits, international students, and workers on visas will be allowed entry into Canada, despite restricted border measures, provided that they self-isolate for 14 days.

What will happen to my Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) who were brought in with a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)?

The Government of Canada will provide support of $1,500 per temporary foreign worker to help pay the cost of the mandatory 14-day isolation period required of all workers arriving from abroad. Applications will be made through the Ministry of Agriculture website – more details to come.

Employer responsibilities:

- Honour the worker’s period of employment to start upon their arrival to Canada

- Paying the wages and benefits during the TFW’s self-isolation period

  • Specifically, for the workers in the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program
  • Other workers must be paid for a minimum of 30 hours per week and at the rate specified on the LMIA

- The employer can withhold standard contract deductions (e.g. Employment Insurance, housing, transportation, etc.) as per their TFW Program stream requirements.

- No deductions of any additional amounts due to the self-isolation period

- Keep a proof of employee wages paid

- Cannot authorize the worker to work during the self- isolation period, even if requested by the worker. The only exception is if the service is deemed an essential service by the Chief Public Health Officer. No other duties other than those approved by the Chief Public Health Officer may be asked of the worker.

- Regularly monitor the health of workers who are self-isolating or workers who become sick after the self-isolation period.

  • Communicate with your employee on a daily basis (call, text, email, or in-person two metres away if necessary) during self-isolation and ask if they are experiencing any symptoms
  • Maintain a record of responses received

- If a worker becomes symptomatic at any time the employer must:

  • Immediately arrange for the worker to be fully isolated from others
  • Contact the local public health officials
  • Contact the appropriate consulate (suggested)

- Ensure workers have the tools and supplies necessary to practice good hygiene:

  • Access to hand-washing facilities
  • Provide soap
  • Provide alcohol-based hand-sanitizer if hand-washing facilities are not available and hands are not soiled

- Provide information on COVID-19 to the worker on or before the first day of self-isolation

  • Try to provide the information in a language understood by the employee. Contact the Public Health Agency of Canada at 1-833-784-4397 or by e-mail at [email protected] for materials in different languages.
  • Provide information in writing or orally (i.e., by telephone) as appropriate

- The employer must report any violation of the Quarantine Act to local law enforcement; including workers who do not observe the mandatory self-isolation period.

- Employers must follow all federal and provincial/territorial employment and health and safety laws, as well as the public health requirements of both the federal and provincial/territorial governments

Additional requirements for employers who provide accommodations:

- Self-isolating workers must be housed separate to those who are not self-isolating

- Self-isolating workers can be housed together; however, the workers must be able to maintain at least a 2-metre distance between them at all times. If this requirement cannot be met, then alternate housing arrangements (e.g., hotel) may be required.

  • Note: if new workers are housed for self-isolation with workers already in self-isolation, the calendar resets to the day the most recent worker arrived.

- Surfaces in the accommodations must be cleaned and disinfected regularly. In bathrooms, kitchens and common areas cleaning/disinfecting is recommended to be done at least daily and a log should be kept of all cleaning.

  • Workers can do this as it is considered essential work, alternatively a professional cleaner can be hired
  • The employer must provide all supplies – paper towel, cleaning/disinfecting products, dish soap, laundry soap, etc.

- Information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 must be posted in the accommodations, including information on best practices in maintaining facilities:

  • Information should be posted in bathrooms, kitchens, common areas
  • Information should be in the language of the worker(s)

- The accommodations must prevent the self-isolating worker from coming in contact with older adults (65+) and people with medical conditions who are at risk of developing serious illness. A caregiver for an elderly person must spend the self-isolation period in different accommodations to the elderly person.

Am I obligated to put preventive measures in place in the workplace?

Occupational Health and Safety requires employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees.

Preventive measures could include:

  • Ensuring that handwashing facilities are readily available and encouraging employees to practice good hygiene.
  • Ensuring employees are aware of the symptoms and risk of the virus.
  • Having a Health and Safety meeting with your committee or representative (if applicable) to review business policies and protocols.
  • Posting safety measures and encouraging employees to follow them to help prevent person to person transmission.
  • Permitting employees to work remotely where possible. Communicate this to employees, so they will feel comfortable working from home if they are feeling sick.
  • Having safety products available (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, gloves, etc.).
  • Paying additional attention to cleaning – disinfecting door handles, computer keyboards, telephones, etc.

Note: these measures also help prevent the spread of other infections such as colds, the flu, and stomach bugs.

Be wary of singling out an employee to stay home as a preventive measure, if other employees are continuing to come into the workplace. The reason to remove the employee from the workplace needs to be supported by facts, and be in line with public health guidelines, to avoid the possibility the move could be perceived as being discriminatory.

Our insurance partner Northbridge Insurance has also provided a free 20-minute webinar to help you better understand COVID-19 exposures and worksite infection control best practices.

Do I need a coronavirus sick policy?

Having a small business sick policy or attendance policy is good business sense at all times, not just when there is a pandemic. Letting employees know exactly what they are entitled to, based on Employment Standards requirements and your own internal policies, will set expectations and reduce confusion and frustration.

My employee has travelled outside the province, can I require them to isolate when they return?

Some provinces are now mandating a 14-day self-isolation for any person returning from outside the province. If this is the case in your province, then the employee will have no choice but to self-isolate.

If your province does not have the requirement to self-isolate following inter-provincial travel, the business could set the expectation of self-isolating in the business’ travel policy. An employer is responsible for the health and safety of it’s employees and can ask the employees to stay home should there be reasonable cause. Requiring an employee to self-isolate when it’s not mandated by the government may mean still paying the employee. It would be best to talk to a lawyer in those situations to ensure the business is on-sides with any applicable employment standards rules and regulations.

Occupational Health and Safety

How do I manage mental health/anxiety for employees returning to work?

As a business owner, getting your employees back to work during the pandemic can be challenging. Some employees are experiencing anxiety and stress, even those who have never struggled with these issues in the past. Whether they are concerned about exposing themselves or their families to the virus, or perhaps they are anxious about how to interact with customers in this new context - the struggles are real and employers have a duty and a responsibility to help and support their employees. As you focus on the reopening, safety guidelines and measures, don’t forget to spend a bit more time with your staff.

Planning and communication are key. Developing a Workplace Plan is one approach and it doesn’t have to be complicated:

  • Organize a zoom call or a socially distanced picnic in the park to break the ice before reopening.
  • Bring the employees back to the workplace ahead of the reopening for a few days or meet one-on-one.
  • Involve your health and safety representative or committee.
  • Get staff involved in the preparation so they feel in control or at the very least as though they are contributing to their own personal safety and that of their colleagues.
  • Survey your staff anonymously to get a temperature check.
  • Provide contact information for where to find help.

There are many ideas so be as creative as you want based on your employees’ needs. Where appropriate, you could use a Team Development format and let your employees contribute to the process; this means allowing for some flexibility in your planning to include their suggestions. Regardless of your approach, let your employees voice their concerns so they know that you are there to help them through the transition. We all know it’s not “business as usual” and the better prepared your team is, the better served your clients will be.

Remember that everyone’s anxiety and fear is at a different level so think about your team individually and as a group. What issues can you predict and which issues can you prevent and address right away? Here are a few tools that can assist you and your employees:

Share these resources with staff, make them available in your lunch room or via your Intranet (if available). These trusted sources can be helpful for employees while reflecting on their return to work but can also help in communicating and addressing their fears. Stress and anxiety can be minimized with good, clear and well sourced information that is available on a regular basis.

There will be extreme cases and additionally challenging situations. If you or an employee are experiencing distress, please call your local crisis centre. If you or someone you know is in need of emergency services, please don’t hesitate to call your local Emergency Services (often 911). Otherwise, don’t hesitate to call your CFIB Business Resource team for additional support.

Resources:

How do I manage my stress level as a business owner?

As a business owner, many people depend on you; your employees, your suppliers, your community, your family. You have become an expert in many areas of business operations, but even in a stable economy running a business is a challenge – then comes COVID. As you focus on keeping the business afloat, address employees’ anxieties and fears, support your community, and try to keep a bit of yourself to give to your family… we ask you this: Who is taking care of you?

During this pandemic we’ve spoken to thousands of business owners about everything under the sun and the last thing they tend to address is their own wellbeing. You are the keystone of your business and its greatest asset. Many business owners are struggling; stress, anxiety, burnouts, not to mention concerns with financial uncertainty and what the future holds. You are not alone. There are many resources and tools available:

If you are experiencing distress, please call your local crisis centre (National suicide prevention support line: 1-833-456-4566).

If your or someone you know is in need of emergency services, please don’t hesitate to call your local Emergency Services (often 911).

What should I do if one of my employees has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?
  • Check the public health guidelines in your jurisdiction on how to proceed in this situation.
  • Ask your employee to take the COVID-19 self-assessment test
  • If the employee has not come into the workplace, you can require an employee to self-isolate for 14 days. The worker must take all necessary measures to protect their health and safety, and those of others in the workplace. As an employer you have a duty to take all necessary measures to protect the health and safety of your workers.
  • Provide the employee with their provincial, territorial, and federal leave/pay options and ensure that they know who to call at the workplace to keep updated on their situation.
  • As provincial rules will vary on being able to ask for doctor’s notes, completing asking your employee to complete a fit-to-work assessment before coming back into the workplace may be a good alternative.
  • If the employee cannot stay home, consider PPE measures to keep everyone safe in the workplace. These work best and will not raise the likelihood of a human rights claim if made applicable to the workplace and not one individual.
What should I do if an employee showing COVID-19 symptoms comes into the workplace?

Managing employees during the COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging as many symptoms of COVID-19 can also be symptoms of a cold, allergies or flu.

What you need to do will vary depending on the level of exposure to your workplace and the provincial rules provided by your ministry of labour and your public health authority; however, here are some general guidelines:

  • Is the employee showing signs of COVID-19? Use your province’s online Self-Assessment Tool, listed by Health Canada, to determine if the symptoms are related to COVID-19.
  • Has the employee had close contact with someone with COVID-19?
  • Was the employee travelling in recent days?

If YES is the answer to any of these questions, ask the employee to leave the workplace right away, get tested and self-isolate for 14 days.

If the test result is positive:

  • You may need to report it to the province (in some jurisdictions public health will do this)
  • Notify your company’s health and safety committee or representative that there has been a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. Do not identify the employee
  • Contact the local Public Health Unit to discuss next steps
  • Ask your employee to track their recent contacts as this will help prevent the spread of COVID-19—public health will also work on this with the individual

Second step: Assess the level of exposure

If the employee has been in the workplace, were they around other employees or customers? If yes, then you should:

  • Evacuate the space/send employees home, explaining that the evacuation is a precautionary measure. Do not identify the employee in question.
  • Determine the level of exposure in your workplace
  • Check the public health guidelines in your jurisdiction on how to proceed in your situation.
  • Clean and disinfect the exposed premises. Ensure that workers are not using the space to give the disinfectants time to take effect.
  • Re-assess your risk and review your safety plan.
  • Implement an internal communication strategy so that employees are aware of measures being taken to manage the situation and keep them informed about their return to work. Re-educate employees on company policies to ensure that the incident does not happen again.
  • Clearly communicate that all staff must take necessary hygiene precautions such as effective handwashing, social distancing, avoiding travel to affected areas, and meeting with infected or potentially infected people.

During the pandemic, remember that:

Employees can refuse work if they reasonably believe there is a dangerous condition in the workplace or that work constitutes a danger to their health. If this happens, employers must respond by carrying out an investigation and, if applicable, take action to eliminate the danger. Contact your provincial health and safety department right away to request a ruling on the safety status of your workplace.

Where possible, implement a work from home policy so employees can continue their tasks in a remote setting.

Do I have the right to require my employees to provide medical documentation to show that they are not sick?

Being allowed to require a medical note from your employee will depend on your business’s provincial employment standards and on the severity of the employee’s shared situation.

To reduce the strain on health care providers, some provincial governments recommend that only persons experiencing serious symptoms attend hospitals or medical clinics. Some provincial governments are requesting that businesses do not ask employees for medical notes before or after sickness. As an alternative, your provincial government may allow you to ask for a fit-to-work assessment/functional abilities form upon your employee’s return to ensure their ability to work.

If a particular situation allows you to request a medical note, it will be important to check whether your province's standards require you to cover the costs related to this request (transportation, remuneration, medical assessment, etc.).

Should you be uncertain of what is acceptable in your province feel free to contact a CFIB Business Counsellor to speak about your situation.

What financial support can I get to pay my employees?

There are several government support programs you may be eligible for, including the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Find out more about these programs on our Financial Support page.

More Resources

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Our primary concern at CFIB is making sure you have the support you need to get through this uncertain and challenging time. We provide you with expert advice and ensure that you have all of the latest information on government announcements and available support.

Visit our Help Centre