How to Keep a Workforce Safe Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis
On March 17th the government announced it intends to introduce legislation that if passed could immediately provide job-protected leave to employees in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, or those who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures. This is a fantastic relief for many who are both starved for information and work in amidst the recent business closures. The strain to parents is felt particularly strongly felt, as they’ve been battling against school strikes and finding day activities for their children amidst the school union strikes and walkouts.
The Ford provincial government, as well as they Federal government have made it their mission to provide aid for Canadians in this most trying of times. The proposed legislation would, if passed, provide job protection for employees unable to work for the following reasons. If an employee is under medical investigation, supervision or treatment for COVID-19 they are automatically exempt from any obligations and are in a protected status. As well, employees under a quarantine or self-isolation measures will find similar protections enshrined for them. Parents, guardians and care givers who are home to care for any stricken with the illness are all allowed a certain wide breadth of accommodation too. And lastly, anyone acting in accordance with public health information or direction is allowed to conduct themselves accordingly if it’s in the public best interest. The proposed legislation would also make it clear that an employee will not be required to provide a medical note if they take the leave. The measures would be retroactive to January 25, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in Ontario.
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development is responding to inquiries regarding worker protections for COVID-19 and continues to investigate all complaints related to workplace health and safety to provide support, advice and enforcement, including proactive inspections as needed to ensure the health and safety of Ontario's workers. Employers are required to report all occupational illnesses, including COVID-19, to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four days. Employers are also required to notify their joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative and a trade union, if they exist.
Typically a famously slow and bureaucratic institution, the government is acting with a swiftness and dedication to combat this growing infection. Especially compared to other nations on the global stage Canada, and Ontario as well, are handling this crises in the best possible way; by placing value of human life and safe practices. We all need to work safe, stay informed and isolated ourselves as much as possible. Social distancing may seem an unhappy practice, but the important thing is to curb the spread of this infection while we still can!
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