By Sara Ametrano
The COVID-19 virus has had a tremendous global impact. Throughout the world we’ve witnessed international borders shutting down to visitors, businesses ceasing operations and a significant hit to the economy.
Some businesses have managed to maintain operations through remote working arrangements and implementing safety precautions at the workplace for any individuals required to be present. Health of employees and visitors is of the utmost importance, and the question of how to successfully resume regular operations is at the top of everyone’s mind.
It’s important to keep in mind that many individuals may still be hesitant to return to the workplace, even with many precautions in place. Whether it is a matter of using public transportation, a position that requires excessive contact with others, shared elevators and common areas, it isn’t difficult to see where discomfort may arise. During this time, communication between employers and employees is key. The Government of Canada recommends that staff express any concerns they may have about the pandemic discuss the possibility of working remotely.
If employees are to be physically present, here are some protective measures businesses can take in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace, as recommended by the World Health Organization:
- Install disinfectant wipes throughout the workplace;
- Restrict access to shared areas and equipment, such as break rooms and refrigerators;
- Ensure everyone wears a mask and frequently washes/sanitizes their hands;
- Separate bodies as much as possible; this can be done through having employees come to work on a rotating basis so the business is not at full capacity;
- Create a clear people-flow through the workplace to ensure no two-way traffic.
In addition to the above suggestions, employers can also try restricting access to shared areas and equipment, such as break rooms and refrigerators, as well as having a clear people-flow through the workplace to ensure no two-way traffic for even more protection.
If remote work and precautionary measures aren’t possible, some business may be forced to limit operations, which may include moving to a temporary “online-only” presence for the consumer industry or shutting down certain aspects of the business for the time being, for example. In this case, a top priority for employers may be determining the actions they can take to reduce the potential of a permanent shut down. Businesses should determine the resources and options available to them, which could include measures such as seeking emergency government benefits for the business itself or its staff.
In the unfortunate event a business need to reduce staffing levels, they need to be aware of their legal obligations before implementing any layoffs or staff changes. Businesses are encouraged to contact their legal counsel to ensure they are acting in accordance with fast changing rules and regulations on staff layoffs/firings during Covid-19. Having solid legal advice before making any decisions can help avoid potential future wrongful dismissal claims or other potential legal matters as a result of these employment changes during these uncertain times.
To learn more about employment practices liability insurance, contact your Trisura underwriter. Contact us here.
The views expressed in this article are exclusively those of the author; they do not necessarily reflect the views of Trisura Guarantee Insurance Company, its affiliates or partners.