The COVID-19 pandemic has created new, urgent challenges for employers. Below, we’ve documented some of the current leave of absence practices that our clients are using to help manage during this pandemic, as well as an FAQ based on our work with our clients.

Employer Management & Company Impacts

The majority of our clients are expanding work from home options. We have heard of a couple of other adaptations being implemented, including limiting onsite and offsite meetings.

Some clients are also moving to rotating Early Shift/Late Shift schedules, to allow more employees to work from home at any given time while still maintaining a functioning presence at their offices. These practices vary by province, depending on the current legislation for mandatory shutdowns.

In terms of leave eligibility, we’ve advised ReedGroup clients to manage claims as they normally would under their plans. For example, if an employee does not meet the requirements for STD, even if quarantined, they would not be entitled to leave under these programs. However, the employer may consider providing that employee with PTO for the quarantined period or allow them to work from home if possible. We are deferring to our clients’ directives as to how they would like these claims managed; large employers can have very different operational needs.

If it is a confirmed case, the employee may be entitled to leave under a statutory or company leave program, such as short-term disability leave, for example.

Unless the employee is ill or on mandatory quarantine due to potential exposure, they are likely not eligible for company leave programs.

To date, we have not seen any increase in mental health claims related to COVID-19.

Since the leave time is not related to the child’s illness, you may not be entitled to a company leave program. However, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)  will cover Canadian working parents who must stay home without pay to care for children who are at home because of school or daycare closures. The CERB may provide parents $2,000 a month for up to 4 months. In addition, some employers are offering employees personal leaves due to school closures.

For employees returning from personal or work-related travel overseas or to other areas with high risk, the safest course of action is to self-quarantine and work from home for a minimum of 14 days and not have direct contact with other workers [11]. If that worker becomes ill, he or she should promptly call a healthcare provider before appearing in a clinic or hospital (e.g., to arrange which entrance to use, to be given an appropriate type of mask before entering the building). The person should also avoid all contact with other people and use a face covering or mask when going out of the home. Wearing a surgical-type mask when ill may help to reduce the spread of the virus from the wearer’s sneezes or coughs. It is also recommended that healthy individuals wear a face covering or mask when going out in the community, as there is evidence of COVID-19’s SARS-CoV2 virus spreading by asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals. Any questions about potential COVID-19 infections should be directed to the local health department, which has the expertise and personnel to investigate outbreaks and perform contact tracings (provided they are not overwhelmed by the current epidemic). It is important to recognize that return-to-work recommendations for essential workers, especially healthcare workers, may need to be modified in the course of the epidemic for practical reasons in response to acute workforce shortages in key jobs and sectors.

This person should be treated as if he or she was infected, with a quarantine period of at least 14 days. Be sure that the local health department is involved. If the employee develops typical symptoms of COVID-19 infection, they should contact their primary physician or health department for testing.

Follow the same protocol as if the person was returning from an overseas country or area with a high risk of infection.

Quarantined or Virus Exposed Employee FAQs

We have not seen any company policy additions. However, we are seeing clients leverage existing plans and policies in different ways (e.g. allowing unpaid leave and personal leaves) and employees are utilizing Employment Insurance if they are required to quarantine and it is not supported by their workplace.

If they have returned from international travel, they are under mandatory quarantine based on the Canadian Government’s legislation.

A physician’s clearance may be required for an employee to return to work; however, these practices vary depending on the workplace environment to which the employee returns and current provincial legislation.

Based on the most recent legislation, the quarantine period is 14 days, which would be an appropriate period of time to cover the employee if the client chooses to do so.

If the employee has a family member (or someone they have been in close contact with) who returned from an international travel, then the employee should be advised to self-isolate for a 14-day period. They can, however, be permitted to work from home if that’s appropriate for their job.

At this time, employers do not have the right to request medical documentation to support a quarantine or self-isolation.

If the employee is ill, they may apply to company leave programs such as Short Term Disability. However, if the employee is not ill, your company may choose to offer personal leave time or refer the employee to EI benefits.

We’ll update this page with additional information and resources as they become available.

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