Canada: Focus On Employment, Labour And Pensions - May 2009

Last Updated: May 30 2009

Article by Employment, Labour and Pensions Groups

Preparing for a Swine Flu Pandemic

Swine Influenza A (H1N1) ("Swine Flu") is raising international concern, particularly with the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome ("SARS") fresh in our memories. On April 29, 2009, the World Health Organization ("WHO") raised the pandemic alert from Phase 4 to 5 of 6 as the pandemic has spread to at least two countries in one WHO region. The declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

As of May 4, 2009, there are 140 laboratory-confirmed cases of Swine Flu reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada, including cases in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

What are the Symptoms of Swine Flu?

Swine flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can be communicated person-to-person in the same way as seasonal flu—mainly through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

Symptoms of swine flu are similar to seasonal influenza (flu), including headache, chills and cough followed by fever, loss of appetite, muscle aches and fatigue, runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes and throat irritation. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may occur in adults as well as in children. In more severe cases, or in people with chronic conditions, complications such as pneumonia may develop.

What You Need to Know or Do

There are a number of practical and legal issues raised by the Swine Flu outbreak. The legal considerations include employer obligations under employment standards, occupational health and safety, workers compensation, and privacy laws.

We have set out a list of considerations and suggestions below to assist employers in proactively addressing these issues.

1. Designate a Responsible Individual or Create a Crisis Management Team

  • Under occupational health and safety legislation, employers and supervisors have an obligation to ensure the safety of the workplace.
  • This may be accomplished by designating one or more individuals who will be responsible for maintaining awareness, alerting others in the organization, and implementing stages of the organization's plan to deal with the outbreak. Larger organizations will want to create a Crisis Management Team and assign well-defined roles and responsibilities to each member.
  • The individual or team should determine what sources of information will be relied on as authoritative and establish how the individual or team will decide when various responsive measures should be taken.

2. Keep Employees Informed about Swine Flu

  • In order to prevent the spread of Swine Flu, employees need information about what it is, what its symptoms are, and who should not attend work.
  • In a unionized environment, it would be prudent for an employer to contact the union to explain how the employees are being kept up to date and to solicit support of the union in upholding the new rules and policies applicable to the Swine Flu outbreak.
  • In the event of quarantine, an emergency, or a temporary relocation, employers must also be able to contact their employees. Employers should therefore update all employee contact lists and consider:
    • Outlining a telephone communication chain. Such a chain would designate point people to contact groups of employees who in turn contact other groups of employees;
    • Installing a telephone information line for recorded information about the organization in an emergency; and/or

    • Allowing all employees remote access to their work e-mail or securing an employee information website for posting emergency instructions for employees.

3. Adopt Additional Workplace Personal Hygiene Practices

  • Personal hygiene plays a very significant role in combating Swine Flu. Employers should recommend the following practices to their employees:
    • Washing their hands repeatedly throughout the day with soap and water for at least 15 seconds and using alcohol-based sanitizers;
    • Avoiding touching their mouths, noses or eyes with their hands;

    • When coughing or sneezing, doing so into a tissue or a sleeve; and
    • Sanitizing any surfaces, such as desks, phones and keyboards daily as a precaution.
  • Employers should also consider providing hand sanitizer in public areas and antimicrobial wipes for cleaning work surfaces.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") has suggested that individuals avoid close contact with people who might be ill and being in crowded settings. Employers should recommend that their employees adopt social distancing practices in the workplace. This means keeping at least three feet apart from other employees, especially in meeting rooms, elevators, shared workspaces and lunchrooms.
  • Face masks have not yet been recommended for workplace use. The following recommendations with respect to the use of face masks and respirators have been provided to date by the CDC:
    • Face masks should be considered for use by individuals who enter crowded settings, both to protect their nose and mouth from other people's coughs and to reduce the wearers' likelihood of coughing on others; the time spent in crowded settings should be as short as possible.
    • Respirators such as the N95 need only be considered for use by individuals for whom close contact with an infectious person is unavoidable. This can include selected individuals who must care for a sick person (e.g., family member with a respiratory infection) at home.

4. Activate a Self-Screening Procedure

  • Employers should tell their employees that if they experience any signs or symptoms listed above, they are required to stay at home and immediately contact their supervisor or the responsible individual or team.
  • Although not all Canadian jurisdictions have private sector privacy laws that protect employees, employers should protect the privacy of employee health information revealed to them.

5. Consider Adopting Temporary Travel Policy

  • As of April 30, 2009, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends on their website that travelers from Canada postpone elective or non-essential travel to Mexico until further notice.
  • Under the temporary travel policy, employers should temporarily require all employees who travel to affected areas to report such travel to the individual responsible or the team.
  • Employees should be required to report any travel to affected areas since the beginning of April, or upcoming travel to any of these affected areas, whether for business or for personal reasons. Currently, laboratory confirmed cases have been reported, in Mexico and in the following North American locations:
    • British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia in Canada; and Arizona, California, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas in the U.S.

6. Manage Absenteeism

  • Employees who are experiencing flu-like symptoms may attempt to attend work out of fear of being penalized or because they cannot afford to lose wages.
  • Employers should be supportive but require employees to stay home from work when they are experiencing symptoms.
  • Employers should review the applicable employment or labour standards legislation and obligations with respect to emergency, family, or other legislated leaves to take care of sick family members and ensure compliance with such leaves.
    • Across the country, employees are eligible for family medical leave which permits employees to take up to eight weeks off to provide care or support for certain individuals if the individual has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death occurring within a period of 26 weeks.
    • In Ontario, if an employer has 50 or more employees, employees are entitled to up to ten days of personal emergency leave and may be entitled to family medical leave (if an emergency declared under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, an employee may also be entitled to additional unpaid leave).

7. Consider the Public and Private Benefits Available to Affected Employees

  • Employers should make a list of all benefits and supports already in place for employees. These benefits may include short-term disability, long-term disability, employment insurance, or workers compensation (if Swine Flu is contracted in the workplace). At present, there has not been any suggestion that the two week waiting period for Employment Insurance will be waived as was the case with SARS.
  • Although the employer's general attendance or leave of absence policies may adequately deal with the situation, the employer may need to adapt the policies on a temporary basis during the Swine Flu outbreak. Employers may consider implementing the following practices:
    • Treating an employee's need to care for infected dependents as an employee illness;
    • Permitting the employee to use sick leave credits or short-term disability benefits where available;
    • Allowing the employee to use vacation or lieu days in order to receive paid time off;
    • Where possible, facilitating work from home by providing employees with access to the required technology; and/or
    • Providing opportunities to make up lost time so no income is lost.

8. Deal with Work Refusals

  • Occupational health and safety legislation gives an employee the right to refuse work that he or she believes is unsafe if certain procedures are followed. The employee may be entitled to pay during the work refusal.
  • Employers must investigate any work refusals in accordance with the applicable occupational health and safety legislation and employees may be entitled to pay during the investigation.
  • Employers cannot discipline employees for refusing work unless the employee has refused to work in bad faith.
  • Some employees may call in work from home refusing to work. If an employee refuses to work out of an unfounded fear that he or she will contract Swine Flu (e.g., no one else in the workplace has Swine Flu), the employee will not likely be entitled for pay for the period of work refusal.

9. Implement Security Precautions

  • Organizations will need to assess whether their business can operate in the event of a pandemic, consider whether their facility is secure, and assess how it will cope with reducing staffing or the need to shut down without much, if any, warning.
  • Employers should implement a sign-in list to monitor visitors to the workplace. In the event that Swine Flu develops in the workplace, an employer should have a means of contacting the visitors to notify them of the outbreak.

Other Resources:

This information bulletin is based on information currently available from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding Swine Flu. Please note that information regarding Swine Flu is subject to regular updates. You may wish to visit the websites listed below to help you obtain the best and most current information.

Detailed information on Swine Flu is available on the following websites:

www.health.gov.on.ca

www.publichealth.gc.ca

www.who.com

www.cdc.gov/swineflu/

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 Mondaq.com.

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

Events from this Firm
13 Dec 2016, Other, Edmonton, Canada

Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy some holiday cheer by supporting this year’s Christmas Bureau Breakfast. We hope you will join us bright and early on Tuesday, December 13 at 7 a.m. for breakfast hosted by Edmonton media personality, Bridget Ryan, and Dentons’ own Andy Hladyshevsky.

 
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
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
Password
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.