Risk Management 101 | Workplace risks during COVID-19 in Canada

Time is of the essence. Overwhelmed by adapting to new and evolving workplace safety protocols, government guidelines as well as health regulations? You are not alone. COVID-19 is reshaping how we live our lives and operate our workplaces. As a result, Canadian business owners and leaders are revisiting how employees interact with each other and with customers.

Related Matters: COVID-19 and new business risks you need to identify and manage

However, there’s still much to think about beyond basic sanitization, face covering and distancing standards. There are also the specific liabilities that you as an employer are now facing. To clarify, actions can be taken to manage new and emerging risks throughout your organization.

So we’ve brought together some helpful insights about COVID-19 risk exposures. Keep reading to learn more about specific COVID-19 workplace risks and why time is always of the essence when it comes to risk management.

What to know about your employer and workplace risks during COVID-19

Employer liability. Updating your health and safety protocols, HR guidelines and operational standards are just the starting point during COVID-19. A recent issue of Canadian HR Reporter points out that your responsibilities and risk exposures as an employer also need to be reconsidered.

For example,

“Across Canada, an employer has an obligation under provincial occupational health and safety or workplace safety and insurance legislation to take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of a worker in the workplace. Taking those precautions may not wholly prevent COVID-19 transmission in its workplace. However, it will reduce the risk to others and the chances of a successful complaint the employer failed to comply with its health and safety obligations.”1

Related Matters: Canadian HR Reporter: Managing workplace risk during COVID-19 pandemic

Furthermore, employers need to proactively minimize risk if there is a presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 case. Here’s how:

“Aside from appropriate hygiene protocols, this includes investigating with whom in the workplace the ill employee had close contact 2-3 days prior to symptoms becoming apparent. …The employer should speak to [identified co-workers] in a private (appropriately distanced) setting, advise they may have been in contact with someone in the workplace with a presumptive or confirmed case of COVID-19, and require them to self-isolate and monitor their symptoms for a period of 14 days.”2

Above all, it’s important to follow the most current federal and provincial workplace guidelines for health and safety during COVID-19. This is why we’ve been sharing a series of articles about workplace risk management during COVID-19 in Canada.

For instance,

It’s also important to recognize that because provincial guidelines for COVID-19 workplace risk management vary, you will likely need to adjust your health and safety protocols on a location-by-location basis.

Therefore, to keep current on the latest Government of Alberta COVID-19 workplace guidance you can bookmark this page. In addition, find general COVID-19 information for Albertans here.

Likewise, if you operate in BC, you can access financial support, free small business webinars and other workplace resources here as well as WorkSafeBC guidelines for your industry.

Meanwhile, Ontario and Toronto businesses can find info about protecting workers from COVID-19 here. Similarly you can also download the Ontario COVID-19 workplace safety plan template here.

Worried about employment practices liability during COVID-19?

Unfortunately, you should be. Times are difficult and many employers across Canada are facing the financial challenges of operating during the pandemic. After weeks or months of closures, strict new guidelines for reopening phases and changing consumer trends, you may need to make some tough employee decisions.

Related Matters: New COVID-19 business guidance from the Government of Canada

Canadian HR Reporter sums up the challenging times that employers are facing,

“Employers are in an unenviable position. While this pandemic rages among us, business decisions must be made in real time, with imperfect information and under enormous stress. However, those same decisions will later be scrutinized by adjudicators with the benefit of time, clarity and context.”3

Canadian HR Reporter: Managing workplace risk during COVID-19 pandemic

Related Matters: What is Employment Practices Liability (EPL) / Wrongful Dismissal insurance?

In the event an employee decides to sue your company for wrongful dismissal, employment practices liability insurance is designed to respond.

For example, some of the employment exposures EPL responds to include:

  • Breach of oral or written employment contract
  • Discrimination
  • Defamation
  • Actual or alleged wrongful or constructive dismissal, discipline, discharge or termination
  • Employment-related misrepresentation
  • Employment-related libel, slander, humiliation, defamation or invasion of privacy
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Sexual harassment
  • Wrongful failure to employ or promote
  • Wrongful deprivation of a career opportunity, wrongful demotion or negligent evaluation
  • Vicarious liability for intentional acts
  • Punitive damages where insurable by law

You can learn more about what employment practices liability can cover here.

Three EPL risk management best practices during COVID-19…

In addition to securing EPL coverage that responds to potential employment practices liability situations, you can also implement risk management best practices. For instance, Canadian HR Reporter specifically notes the following three best practices related to constructive dismissal during COVID-19:

  1. “If possible, before laying off an employee, obtain the employee’s consent to do so. This is not always straightforward, so it’s advisable to consult with experienced employment counsel on how best to proceed.”4
  2. “Maintain contact with laid-off employees, and provide them with updates, including when the business may resume operations.”5
  3. “If possible, consider whether the business can recall employees earlier than anticipated by taking advantage of various government initiatives such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.”6

In conclusion, during COVID-19 and anytime, time is always of the essence when it comes to risk management. There are many steps that you can take to protect your bottom line against worst case scenarios.

Thankfully, ALIGNED Advocates are delivering business insurance Canada products exclusively – so this means they thoroughly understand the best solutions – such as EPL options – in the marketplace.

We work with more than 65 of the top insurance companies in Canada and can get you connected with coverage that responds when you need it most.  

Where to find more info about COVID-19 and the Canadian workplace

The pandemic is changing how we live, work and interact with each other. To help understand COVID-19 risks and commercial insurance Canada products, read our Insurance Blog. In addition, you can keep current by subscribing to our e-news ALIGNMENT Matters on our homepage.

Here’s a selection of recent COVID-19 related news articles that we hope you will find helpful.

Source: 1,2,3,4,5,6 Canadian HR Reporter: Managing workplace risk during COVID-19 pandemic

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