Rights and Responsibilities of Farm Employers and Employees during COVID-19

 

What are your responsibilities and best practices as an employer?

You have a responsibility to take every reasonable precaution to protect your employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Best practices include:

1. Education: Stay informed of COVID-19 updates from the World Health Organization, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and provincial and local public health agencies. Inform and encourage employees to follow health protocols including proper handwashing techniques, proper cough and sneeze etiquette, and avoiding close and physical contact with other employees. Post these protocols in visible locations in your workplace.

2. Workplace sanitation: Make hygienic products available including soap and hot water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and disposable disinfectant wipes. Sanitize work surfaces, equipment and other commonly-touched areas regularly.

3. Physical distancing measures: Explore and implement means to maintain a minimum of 2 metre distancing between employees. Encourage employees to use non-medical masks or face coverings when maintaining distance is difficult. Refrain from allowing visitors access to your farm. Encourage employees to avoid shared transportation to and from the work site.

4.  Know your Employees’ Rights: Ontario Bill 186, an amendment to the Employment Standards Act, allows for job-protected leave without pay for employees under medical investigation, supervision or treatment, or in isolation or quarantine, or who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives, or are affected by travel restrictions, due to COVID-19. Under the Ontario Human Rights Codeemployers cannot discipline or terminate an employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is perceived to have COVID-19, or who is unable to work because they have been quarantined by health officials or been advised to self isolate. Employees have the right to refuse to work or refuse particular work if they have reasonable grounds to believe such work constitutes a danger to their health and safety. An employer cannot force an employee to work if they have exercised their right to refuse work. Employers should consult the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety legislation and consult legal counsel for procedures to follow if an employee has exercised their right to refuse work. Employers should also be sensitive to other factors that may require an employee to take COVID-related leave, including particular health-related vulnerabilities an employee or their household members may have.

5. Temporary Foreign Worker Protocols: Follow the requirements of the Government of Canada if you employ temporary foreign workers, including adhering to the two week self-isolation period with pay (minimum of 30 hours a week), monitoring health of foreign workers, and providing appropriate sanitation facilities and accommodations (if offered).

6. Symptoms Protocol: Inform employees to stay home if they (or another household member) feel sick or exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms and encourage them to consult a medical practitioner/public health authority. Only allow employees to return to the workplace after they’ve been symptom-free and have been approved to return to work by the local health authorities. You can require employees to report any flu-like symptoms, but it could violate privacy laws if you to request/require other personal information unrelated to a legitimate interest in workplace safety. If a sick employee has tested positive and was in contact with other employees, you should notify other co-workers who may have come in contact with the individual; the co-workers should self-isolate for 14 days and seek medical advice should they display COVID-19 symptoms. You should not inform the workforce of the identity of the person with the confirmed diagnosis or provide any identifying information about the affected person.

7. Workplace health and safety policies: Review your health and safety policies and ensure they are consistent with public health guidelines. Your policies should not act as a deterrent to employees calling in sick. You may wish to review and expand your policies regarding sick leave, vacation and other paid time off in light of COVID-19.

 

What are your responsibilities and rights as an employee?

1. Proper Hygiene & Physical Distancing: You should practice proper handwashing techniques, proper cough and sneeze etiquette, and avoid close and physical contact with other employees. Avoid shared transportation to and from the work site.

2. Symptoms Protocol: If you (or another household member) feel sick or exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms you should inform your employer, self-isolate immediately in your home, and consult a medical practitioner/public health authority as soon as possible. If you test positive for COVID-19, you should let your employer know immediately of any other employees with whom you might have shared close contact. You should not return to work until you are symptom-free and you have been approved to return to work by your local health authorities.

3. Employee Rights: Ontario Bill 186, an amendment to the Employment Standards Act, allows for job-protected leave without pay for employees under medical investigation, supervision or treatment, or in isolation or quarantine, or who need to be away from work to care for children because of school or day care closures or to care for other relatives, or are affected by travel restrictions, due to COVID-19. Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, you cannot be disciplined by your employer if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are perceived to have COVID-19, or are unable to work because you have been quarantined by health officials or been advised to self isolate. You have the right to refuse to work or refuse particular work if you have reasonable grounds to believe such work constitutes a danger to your health and safety.

4. Out-of-Work Employee Benefits: If you are unable to work because of COVID-19 you may qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or EI sickness benefits .

Let’s make NFU-O farms safe and healthy workplaces during COVID-19!

LET US KNOW IF…
You have you struggled to make COVID-19-related changes on your farm

OR

You have you adopted novel best labour practices during COVID-19 that you’d like to share with other NFU-O members.

Please contact Dave Thompson (david@nfuontario.ca) if you have any questions/comments.

Please note that the above information does not constitute legal advice.