MANY WORKERS FEEL UNSAFE ABOUT GOING BACK TO WORK

By Carola Mittag

Posted Jul 17th, 2020 in Tips & News

Are your workers ready to go back to work?

Nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) workers still do not feel safe returning to their regular workplace, according to Statistics Canada. Women are less comfortable (41 per cent) than men (34 per cent) about a return to work.

How will you handle these concerns?

Employees want significant safety precautions in place including distancing practices, wearing of masks, increased workplace sanitization protocols, possibly temperature checks and, most importantly, instructing employees who display any signs of illness to stay home. Additional precautions may look like this:
  • Implementing offset shifts to increase the distance between employees;
  • Modifying work spaces to increase the distance between employees;
  • Providing gloves, facemasks and other protective equipment;
  • Making remote work an option if possible.
Your Duties to Keep Workers Safe

The Occupational Health & Safety Act requires employers to take all reasonable measures possible to ensure the health and safety of employees. However, sometimes no matter how comprehensive the measures the employer takes, some employees may still be anxious. How should you respond?

If you insist the worker comes to work, the worker might decide to initiate a work refusal under occupational health and safety law. This is their right if they genuinely believe that their health or safety is at risk. But the issue is not resolved if you have conducted an investigation and done what you reasonably can to prevent COVID contagion, and a Ministry inspector agrees.

If your employee is legitimately still anxious about coming into the work, there is not much more you the employer can do in terms of workplace safety. Given the uncertainty during this time, employers might consider showing some flexibility.

Legally, if you have done what you can and your employee’s work refusal is not supported by a Ministry inspector, you can compel the employee to come to work or face disciplinary action. That obviously could do harm to your employee’s commitment, productivity and loyalty.

COVID-19 has changed the way some parts of employment law are interpreted. A little understanding may go a long way.

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