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:

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.

Events from this Firm
14 Nov 2018, Other, Toronto, Canada

Save the date. It’s that time of the year to mark your calendars for the opportunity to earn the rest of your CPD credits all in one day!

27 Nov 2018, Other, Toronto, Canada

Dentons is pleased to sponsor the Global Property Market Forum taking place November 27, 2018 in Toronto.

30 Nov 2018, Conference, Toronto, Canada

Dentons is proud to be the presenting sponsor for Autonomous Vehicle P3s: Visions of the Future at this year’s CCPPP conference in Toronto on Nov 5-6, 2018.

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