COVID-19 concerns are rising around the world, and companies in Canada are now reviewing policies around employee travel and when to keep employees from coming in. This has triggered several questions about employee rights in these kinds of situations.

For many employees, if they are asked to stay at home, that can mean not getting paid, and at the same time, an employer is responsible for creating a safe workplace. What is the push and pull here?

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their employees at the workplace, especially amid the rising COVID-19 concerns. So desperate times call for desperate measures. And with the current Coronavirus outbreak, employers are within their rights to ensure than any employee who shows symptoms of Coronavirus, has traveled to an affected area, or been in close personal contact with someone who has been to the affected area, is prevented from attending the workplace and possibly infecting the other employees.

Are employers allowed to ask the employees the details of their travels – where they are traveling to, where they have traveled to in the past?

It is a gray area in regular circumstances, where employees have the liberty to not disclose their personal travel plans to their employers. But in the current situation of the Coronavirus outbreak around the world, desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s reasonable for an employer to ask the same questions to everybody in the workplace – have you recently traveled to an affected area or have you been in contact with an affected person. The problem arises when employers over-reach and cross the line and they start to stereotype or target certain employees based on race, religious background or place of origin.

Standard is reasonableness!

What are the rights of employees who do not show any or all symptoms?

The medical consensus, for now, is that unless an employee has been to a COVID-19 affected area of been in contact with someone who has the COVID-19 virus, they don’t pose a health and safety risk. And it’s unreasonable to ask the employees to work remotely or to send them home if they are not showing any symptoms of Coronavirus.

If employees have been asked to stay at home due to a potential Coronavirus risk at the workplace, how can they manage their work, the effect on their salaries, etc.?

Sick employees are not entitled to salary and lost wages from their employer, but there are mechanisms to try and recover some wages if you’re unable to work. Employees have the option of employment insurance, paid sick leaves, and even disability insurance.

With years of experience in this ever-changing area of law, we at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you’re looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

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