Your Employment Rights – COVID-19

Know your Employment Rights during COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Both employees and employers have more questions than answers right now regarding this pandemic. It’s an entirely new situation that’s evolving and changing every day, so it can be confusing and overwhelming to try and understand what you should be doing. Whether you’re feeling unsafe at work, have been temporarily laid off or your wage has been reduced because of COVID-19, it’s important to know your employment rights and ensure your employer is adhering to them. Below is a brief overview of a few common topics that everyone has been asking about recently.

Basic Employment Rights – a Healthy and Safe Work Environment

Every employer is responsible for providing their employees with a safe work environment. Employees who are currently working because their place of employment has been designated “essential”, and are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, must notify should notify the appropriate people immediately. This ensures that other employees who were working within the same area are notified immediately. That way everyone who’s possibly infected can leave and quarantine for the next 14 days to stop the virus from spreading. The work area will be disinfected so it can continue to be used. Maintaining an open line of communication is one of the easiest ways to keep everyone safe.

Working in a safe work environment is well within your employment rights. If you’re at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because of your job, your employer must supply you with the appropriate personal protective gear. Your employer can also request temperature checks and other health testing to maintain a safe work environment.

Temporary Layoffs and Reduced Hours

Many employees have already been temporarily laid off or have had their hours reduced because of lack of work due to COVID-19. If the government has ordered the closure of your workplace, you’ll likely qualify for financial assistance for the time being. 

There are federal and provincial financial assistant plans being put in place to help those whose income is impacted by COVID-19. Service Canada has outlined the economical response plan on their website so you can review all of the options that you might qualify for.

Home Office Option

Working from home should be taken into consideration if you do not feel comfortable at work. Of course, not every job is able to be done in the comfort of your own home, so this option will vary based on what your job is. Also, your employer doesn’t necessarily have to accommodate you working from home if you’re not being put at-risk within your workplace.

Your employment rights allow you to refuse work but only if you believe your duties put your health in danger.  If there’s a confirmed or presumptive case of COVID-19 within the workplace or within an employee’s family, potential risk of exposure because of clients or customers, or you’re part of the population who are vulnerable (65 years or older, compromised immune system or already have underlying health problems) you may be able to refuse work. This is all circumstantial and is based on individual situations, but voice your concerns to your employer so that you can work together to keep you and everyone else safe.  

If you’re feeling confused or anxious about the current situation, remember that we’re all in this together. Local public health authorities are doing everything they can to keep us up-to-date on the situation. Ensure that you are practicing physical distancing and following all of the other tips listed to slow the spread of this virus. In this time of uncertainty, we all need to do our part in order to help flatten the curve. If you feel unsafe at work or have questions about whether or not your employer is violating your employment rights, reach out to the appropriate people as soon as you can.

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