The CoronaVirus- Employee Rights and Employer Obligations
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. As I am writing this article, the virus has now infected over 244,082 people and killed thousands of people around the world. People have had to adopt many strategies from social distancing to self-quarantine to save themselves from this deadly virus.
Like many places in the world, coronavirus is forcing employers and employees in Alberta to change their policies and strategies. Many have been forced to shut down their business for some time while others have tried to remain functional without being exposed to the virus. This has created some new circumstances to the employers and employees.
Today, we want to discuss some apparent problems, confusion, and obligations of employees and employers with the rise of the pandemic corona.
Some Questions about Employee Rights
As new situations arise with novel coronavirus, Covid-19, some further questions are due to rise-
Can my employer fire me if I need to miss work for coronavirus?
Many people have gone to self-quarantine because of the corona outbreak. So, they have to miss work for this obvious reason. Some may not even follow the standard procedure of taking a leave. So the question is, “Can an employer fire an employee?” Ordinarily, the answer is yes. An employer can fire an employee for a reason and without reason. However, an employer cannot terminate an employee due to the employee’s medical conditions, including being quarantined due to Covid-19, as that would offend the human rights legislations. Moreover, if there is no cause for firing, an employer must provide working notice or pay in lieu of notice.
What to do if I miss a payment for the time of quarantine?
Corona is not an everyday story. Most employers do not have a straight forward policy for this scenario yet. Some may adjust sick leave policies to this virus outbreak. So, in those cases, you should get your payment during the quarantine. People are not usually entitled to any benefits at the time of quarantine. However, if you are infected by coronavirus, then it would be considered a sick leave, and you may be entitled to benefits.
Your company may offer other benefits to cover your absence at the time of quarantine, like emergency leave or vacation leave. The government has also stepped in
If the workplace is totally unsafe to work and I refuse to go?
Employees have every right to refuse to go to work if they think the workplace is unsafe to work. Now, what can you do if an employer insists you work when the workplace is not safe? You must immediately report to the employer about the dangerous situation of the workplace. If you are a unionized worker, you can contact your union representative to discuss your complaint.
Some Questions about Employer Obligations
Employers can play many positive roles at this time of the corona pandemic. Here are some of the significant points about these obligations-
The Occupational Health and Safety Act
The employer needs to ensure his/her employees’ health and safety. Under OHSA, employers must take proper precautions to protect their employees from the workplace danger. Given the circumstance under the Covid-19 attack, an employer can do the following things-
- Adapt to a new system where employers need not contact each other during work time.
- Provide enough sensitization to the workplace and instruct everyone to follow standard hygiene.
- If possible, encourage workers to continue working from home.
- If someone is showing any symptoms of Corona infection, quarantine him/her immediately and contact the proper authority for help.
- If someone has some bad medical records, then give him/her extra care.
Actions concerning work refusal
When the employees refuse to work, an employer should do the following things-
- Receive the complaints.
- Investigate the complaints.
- Take proper measures to remove the danger.
- If the danger can’t be controlled, they should comply with the employee’s refusal to act.
Change the sick leave policies
Regular sick leave policy may not be beneficial at the time of Corona. As the best way to slow down a pandemic is home quarantine, the employer should encourage employees to work from home. To make the process convenient for all-
- Adjust the sick leave to corona outbreaks.
- Introduce a new emergency leave policy.
The Corona pandemic is one of those incidents that have forced humans to change their daily lives. People had only faced this level of crisis a handful of times. In fact, it is the first of a kind crisis to reappear in modern times.