As the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the globe, employers need to know their legal rights and obligations as it relates to the Canadian workplace.
Please note: Information regarding COVID 19 changes frequently, sometimes within the same day, including the details of various government assistance programs, regulations and best practices. As such it is extremely important carefully review each update and obtain information from credible government, health service or public health units.
If you have additional questions, please either contact your RMG consultant, or our firm directly at email@example.com with the re line: COVID-19. We’ll respond promptly. For emergency assistance please call 226 972 1539
Reporting COVID 19 Cases to Ministry of Labour
At the beginning of the outbreak the Ontario Ministry of Labour took the position that the employer should report ANY confirmed employee COVID 19 case to the ministry and the JOHSC or worker representative. This was not consistent with the OHS Act and the ministry has now amended the publication in which the statement was made. Currently, under the Act, the employer is only required to report to the Ministry and the JOHSC if they have been advised a worker has an occupational illness or has filed an occupational illness claim with the WSIB. Under the regulations an occupational illness is defined as a condition that results from exposure in a workplace to a physical, chemical or biological agent to the extent that the normal physiological mechanisms are affected, and the health of the worker is impaired. If you are unsure if you are required to report a case or suspected case of COVID 19 to the MoL please contact our office.
Additional Government Relief:
The government of Ontario has increased the Employer Health Tax Exemption for private sector employers with total annual payroll of less than $ 5 Million are now eligible for an EHT exemption on up to $ 490,000.00 of payroll. For 2020 this exemption will increase to $ 1,000,000.00. These exemptions are in addition to the
WSIB relief and tax deferrals on EHT, Tobacco and gas tax for more information please visit the government of Ontario website, CRA website, the COVID 19 information section on our website or the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board Website.
Anyone who has listened to public health officials, political leaders, news anchors have heard the term “modelling” often we are asked what it is and how some models can be wildly different. In a nutshell, modelling simply refers to adding data from multiple sources then factoring in variables such as age, sex, location, public health resources, transmission factors, social factors and preventative measures being taken. Modelling also allows us to see where gaps in programs occur and how we can address these gaps. To give two examples recently we assisted with a study for a large firm considering bringing back employees on alternate days, given all the input data and precautions that were absent our modelling showed no decrease in the potential transmission rate. However, once we added in handwashing stations, social distancing at workstations, sanitization programs and proper PPE, the model showed less than 3% transmission rate.
In another facility, best practices were in place however the infection rate was approaching 20% of the workplace, once contact tracing was put in place it was discovered multiple employees lived in the same houses, had other household members in higher risk occupations and were carpooling to work all of which spread the infection to other workers, who of course in turn infected others and the domino effect continued, neither of these two factors had been entered into their modelling data or response plan. So, when we examine data from other sources, enter in our own data we then add or remove items that we know help prevent spread and infection, this is where the different numbers come from, if model A includes proper screening, PPE, infection control and precautions the numbers are lower, if we remove these inputs, then the numbers climb. It is not that the medical community does not know what we are doing, our job is to present both scenario’s to leadership, prepare for the worst and put efforts and resources where they will do the best.
No one can predict the future, what we can do is take lessons from previous outbreaks, factor in current resource levels, observe what is happening in the world where the outbreak is trending downward or upward and then make some educated projections. We have delivered over 150 COVID 19 information sessions and we begin each session by saying “What we tell you today may change tomorrow and what we tell you tomorrow may change the day after that”. We are dealing with a new virus and as we gather more information, try new treatments and a host of other factors guides how we respond. What we do know is that COVID 19 will be an issue into 2021, and as one person put yesterday until a vaccine is developed and tested, we will have to adapt and co-exist with this virus. We also know that Influenzas season will begin at around the same time as the predicted 2nd wave of COVID 19 comes. We encourage all our clients to have realistic discussions on how their workplace will function when people return to work, to have proper screening and assessment tools in place, proper procedures, sanitization programs, security systems and worker education programs and most of all proper PPE in sufficient amounts. RMG can assist you with this planning if required.
Bottom line: There are many issues at play in this serious and evolving situation. If you have any questions about how COVID-19 may impact your workplace, contact your RMG Consultant or a member of the RMG Medical Services Unit team at firstname.lastname@example.org.