The Quebec government’s recent announcement of a gradual resumption of activity in specific economic sectors during the month of May is encouraging from an economic point of view.1 However, due to the ongoing health crisis, it is also raising some questions for employers.
These questions include how to go about calling employees back to work, as well as what measures to put in place to ensure smooth operations while team members observe applicable health and safety regulations.
Recognizing that a heightened level of uncertainty and unknowns can create anxiety for both managers and employees, it will be useful for employers to provide a clear framework and precise rules so that activities can resume calmly and effectively. A return-to-work protocol that is communicated to all and applied consistently can be a very useful tool in these circumstances.
The following are examples of questions that may be asked as part of the return to work process:
Calling employees back to work
- Who should be called back to work, and in what order?
- What rules in the collective agreement, if any, need to be followed?
- How do we manage workers for whom specific public health recommendations apply (e.g. workers aged 60 and over or workers with compromised immune systems)?
- How do we deal with workers who are reluctant to return to work after several weeks of imposed confinement?
Health and safety measures
- Is there a need to administer a health questionnaire or take a temperature reading as employees arrive at work?
- Is it necessary to supply personal protective equipment (e.g. a mask) to each worker or to install physical protective barriers (e.g. plexiglass)?
- Is it necessary to install a temporary sink or disinfection station to allow for frequent hand washing?
- Should the use of microwave ovens be banned or regulated?
- Is there a need to increase the frequency of cleaning at the facility?
Social distancing measures
- Is it necessary to reorganize work procedures or workspaces to allow for social distancing?
- Should work schedules and breaks be arranged to avoid congestion when entering, clocking in or out or leaving the facility?
- How can we ensure distancing in the busier common areas, such as the cafeteria, locker rooms and bathrooms?
- Is there a need to limit movement within the facility?
These are just a few examples of issues or situations that may cause headaches for employers as they participate in reopening the economy during the COVID-19 crisis. Many of these factors will require some level of detail in a return-to-work protocol.
We invite you to contact the members of our Labour and Employment Law team for support in developing a return-to-work protocol and to obtain any advice you need regarding the reopening of your business and your employees’ return to work.
1 For more details on this announcement, we invite you to read the recent article written by our team.