The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the way many businesses operate.
Employers have always had a moral and legal responsibility to protect employees from on-the-job hazards, but now this also includes protecting them from exposure to the virus and making accommodations when necessary.
New employer responsibilities & labour issues surrounding employees and COVID-19
Some of the new responsibilities that employers have in regards to COVID-19 are obvious. For example, employers should be clearly communicating to employees that they should not be coming into work if they have symptoms of the virus, have come into contact with someone infected with the virus in the previous 14 days, or have been out of the country in the previous 14 days.
Employers should also ensure that employees have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and follow social distancing protocol while at work.
Other employer responsibilities may be less obvious. For example, employees who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed are at higher risk of developing severe complications if they contract COVID-19. The employer therefore has a duty to accommodate these employees (unless doing so causes undue hardship). Allowing these employees to work from home is one way that an employer could accommodate these employees, but if remote work is not possible the employer should look into other ways to make the workplace safer for immunocompromised or immunosuppressed employees.
Other circumstances in which an employer might need to accommodate their employees include if they need to look after their children (such as in the event of a school closure) or if they need to care for a sick relative.
Employer responsibilities to remote workers
These days many businesses are being run in part or in whole by employees who are working from home. Employers need to keep in mind that employee entitlement to vacation time, sick leave, etc. is not affected by the fact that employees are working remotely.
Furthermore, employers still have an obligation to make every reasonable effort to ensure “the workplace” is a safe one. This can include things like providing communications about proper work posture and ensuring employees have access to the proper equipment to perform their job as well as ergonomically correct office furnishings.
Working from home expectations versus reality
Generally speaking, there is evidence that employees are actually more productive working from home than they are working in the office. That being said however, the expectations that an employer might have may well be different from the actual experience.
For example, if employees have children at home who are engaged in online learning, those employees might be spending part of their days helping their children with their schoolwork. Allowing for flexible work hours can be a good solution for helping employees juggle their family responsibilities and their work responsibilities while working from home.
Contact Minken Employment Lawyers today!
Navigating your responsibilities as an employer can be a challenge at times – but for many, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more complicated. If you require legal advice on employer responsibilities or employment matters as they relate to COVID-19, contact Minken Employment Lawyers today to schedule a consultation.
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Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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