Canada: Swine Influenza – Advice For Employers Preparing For A Pandemic

Last Updated: May 11 2009
Article by Robb A. MacPherson, Erika Ringseis and Hena Singh

Most Read Contributor in Canada, September 2018


Newspaper headlines today urge Canadians to avoid travel to Mexico unless absolutely necessary, given the current health risk. Swine Influenza (Swine Flu) has killed approximately 150 people and infected approximately 2000 globally, with the highest concentration of outbreak reported in Mexico. Although none of the 13 reported cases in Canada have been fatal, the Canadian Chief Public Health Officer, David Butler-Jones, told reporters in Ottawa earlier this week, "We will likely see more cases, we will likely see more severe illnesses and we will likely, unfortunately, see some deaths as well."

Given the widespread presence of the virus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) says that containment of the outbreak is not feasible. The current focus, she indicated, should be on mitigation measures.

Symptoms and Transmission

Swine Flu is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease, with flu-like symptoms. The virus can be transmitted human-to-human, like the human seasonal flu virus is transmitted, through coughing, sneezing and coming in contact with a person or object with the virus. People may also become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Legal Considerations

The same legal considerations that apply to employees who are unable to work due to illness apply to employees who fall ill or who are quarantined during this Swine Flu outbreak. These legal considerations include obligations under employment standards, human rights, occupational health and safety, workers compensation and privacy legislation. It is important to review employment policies, benefit plans, employment contracts, collective agreements and applicable legislation to ensure that you are aware of potential legal consequences before a pandemic strikes.

Tips for Employers

Below are some tips for employers to prepare for a possible Swine Flu pandemic:

1. Prevention

  • Alert employees as to the symptoms and risks associated with Swine Flu, as well as prevention measures.
  • Encourage employees to wash their hands prior to commencing work, after sneezing and coughing, and after they touch objects that may have been in contact with people exhibiting Swine Flu symptoms.
  • Encourage employees not to touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus and to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Provide hand sanitizers and respiratory masks, where appropriate.
  • Review cleaning procedures in place to regularly disinfect equipment, work stations and the workplace generally.
  • Consider introducing a policy requiring disclosure of employee personal travel to a Swine Flu "hotspot" such as Mexico, and a return to work guideline that outlines whether employees returning from a Swine Flu hotspot will be required to absent themselves from the workplace and whether they will be eligible to apply for sick pay or be otherwise paid for time away from work.

2. Containment

  • Require sick employees to stay home.
  • Consider accommodating quarantined employees by use of alternative work arrangements.

3. Prepare for potential work refusals

  • Ensure that supervisors and managers are familiar with work refusal obligations and steps as required under applicable health and safety legislation.

4. Establish a pandemic preparation and response team

  • Identify a team responsible to plan for a pandemic, including representatives with expertise in human resources, operations, health and safety and communications.

5. Prepare a plan

  • If the employer is part of a global corporate plan, consider how the plan can be implemented locally and how it may need to be adjusted on local leave.
  • Establish a process to obtain and implement public health directives.

6. Consider whether to operate or not

  • Determine to what extent the business can operate in the event of a pandemic.
  • Assess staffing needs, including alternative work locations, overtime agreements, and alternative means of getting work done without direct human-to-human contact (e.g., via teleconferencing and video-conferencing).
  • Assess the effect of a pandemic on suppliers, service providers and customers.
  • Consider how much time is needed for an orderly shutdown, if necessary.
  • Review insurance coverage and relevant agreements to determine how the employer can meet contract terms if it decides not to operate.

7. Security Considerations

  • Consider whether the employer's facility is secure, in anticipation of possible service (e.g., hydro, water) reductions, reduced staffing levels and the possible need to shut down, without much, if any, warning.

8. Determine sickness/disability coverage

  • Contact insurers to determine sickness/disability coverage, including for employees who have been ordered to stay in quarantine but who are not sick.

9. Determine obligation to permit employee to be absent from work to care for sick family members

  • Review applicable legislation and obligations to determine if employees are entitled to emergency, family and/or other legislated leaves to care for sick family members.

10. Communication

  • Determine who will be responsible for issuing communications.
  • Provide information to employees about Swine Flu and associated symptoms and risks.
  • Carefully and clearly communicate information, policies and procedures to all employees.
  • Ensure employees get regular, updated training and information on hazards and hazard identification.
  • Establish a system for employees to report their status during a pandemic, including what information they are required to communicate (and how) to the employer and when they are expected to NOT report to work.
  • Ensure employee and employee emergency contact information is up to date.
  • Inform employees of how the employer will communicate with them in the event of an emergency.

11. Visitors

  • Where applicable, consider asking visitors to complete questionnaires in advance of attending the workplace to identify visitors who have Swine Flu symptoms or who may have had contact with a person infected with Swine Flu.
  • Ask visitors to provide information as to where and how they may be contacted after their visit, in the event that Swine Flu develops in the workplace and they need to be notified.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions