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.
FAQ: How Employers Are Managing During The COVID-19 Epidemic
Common responses from employers:
- Expanding use of remote access technology, social distancing, and reduction possible exposure
- Expanding the availability of “work-from-home” options to more employees, and increasing the percentage of time that employees are permitted to work from home
- Making hand sanitizing available for all employees
- Establishing baseline absenteeism rates for your organization, to enable monitoring
- Communicating with employees regularly about actions taken
How are your clients adapting their workplace schedules or routines to reduce their employees’ risk of exposure?
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.
How are you advising ReedGroup clients to manage pay, policy and job protection?
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.
Have any of your clients added/implemented a new company policy for employees who may be quarantined due to COVID-19?
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 EI if they are required to quarantine and it is not supported by their workplace.
If my employee has returned from international travel within the last 14 days, can they be in the workplace?
If they have returned from international travel, they are under mandatory quarantine based on the Canadian Government’s legislation.
What if an employee wants to take a leave because their child’s school has been closed and they need to take care of their child?
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.
If an employee is trying to return to work after being quarantined, what is the required documentation for them to return to work?
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.
If an employee is quarantined, and their employer determines they should be on paid leave, how long would you recommend that the employer pay their employee?
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.
An employee’s family member returned from international travel within the last 14 days, can the employee be in the workplace?
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.
We have a confirmed case of COVID-19. What now?
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.
As there is a known period of time where someone needs to be quarantined, what do you recommend for substantiation or relaxing the need for medical documentation?
At this time, employers do not have the right to request medical documentation to support a quarantine or self-isolation.
An employee must take a leave because they have been quarantined. Are they eligible for a leave?
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 Employment Insurance benefits (EI).
Are you seeing any increase in mental health claims related to fear/anxiety specifically around COVID-19?
To date, we have not seen any increase in mental health claims related to COVID-19.
An employee wants to take a leave of absence because they are afraid they will get infected at work.
Unless the employee is ill or on mandatory quarantine due to potential exposure, they are likely not eligible for company leave programs.
We’ll update this page with additional information and resources as they become available.