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Returning To Work Post-COVID

July 21, 2021
employee rights

What to expect when returning to the office 

You’ve been working from home for much of the past 18 months or so. It took a while, but you finally sorted out Zoom meetings, wardrobe protocols and the many distractions from children, pets and partners. And now… it may be time to get back to the office – full-time, part-time, flex-time or otherwise. Many find this idea daunting – you want to make sure a return to your desk will not pose a danger to you or your loved ones. Here’s what to expect. 

The current laws regarding returning to work 

Depending on when you are reading this article, where you work in Canada and the type of work you do, the rules around returning to the office will vary greatly from place to place. Your federal and provincial health authorities will announce when working in an office, in a non-essential role, is permitted. So if you are asked to go into work, first make certain it is legal to do so. Get in touch with us. We can help you sort out the rules where you live. 

What the employer has to do 

Before you head back to the office, there is a lot of work to do be done, and not by you. First, your employer must adhere to all the local, provincial and federal regulations for returning to work and under what circumstances it is permitted. Your employer is also responsible for determining whether or not your specific office is safe for employees to return to – and there are many policies and procedures that must be put in place before that can happen. And once they are created, your employer should make them available to the employees before everyone is expected to return: Education is a key component of a safe return to work. 

Among the employer actions to look for: 

1. What Covid safety protocols are in place?  

For example: 

  • How many people will be in the office at the same time? 
  • Are there markers noting the recommended 2-metre distance?  
  • Are there limits to how many people who can be in common areas, like the kitchen or the conference room, at one time?  
  • Are there disinfection stations?  
  • Do you have to wear a mask or other PPE at all times? What type? 
  • Have there been physical changes to the office space? Ie: dividers put up? 
  • How often will the office be cleaned/disinfected? 

2. What procedural protocols are in place? For example, what will happen if someone in the office tests positive for Covid? What if someone has been exposed to the virus but does not know for certain if they have it? Will employees be screened before returning? 

3. Are you being asked to reveal if you’ve been vaccinated? And what if you have not? 

4. What are the accommodation plans for those who cannot return to work right away? 

5. What are the consequences for refusing to return to the office? 

If you are an employer who needs advice on how to assess your workplace for a safe return or if you need help drafting the required policies and procedures, Reach out to us

What employees have to do 

Employees have their own role to play to ensure the workplace is safe for all. Here are some of the things you must or should consider: 

  • If you don’t feel well, do not go into the office. 

  • If you’ve been exposed to someone who has Covid, stay home and self-isolate for 14 days, or however long the most up to date guidelines recommend. 

  • If you have travelled outside the country (or in some cases, your province), stay home and self-isolate for the required time. 

  • Follow the protocols and policies put in place by your employer. 

  • Follow all the everyday safety practices you’re familiar with: avoid shaking hands, cough or sneeze into your elbow (even with a mask), keep your distance, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, avoid lending or borrowing equipment or supplies, etc. 

The take-away. 

Although your work experience may not be exactly like it was before the virus hit, you should have some peace of mind in knowing that there are many rules and regulations in place for your employer to follow to keep you safe. And if employees do their part, along with vaccine efficiency, hopefully the remainder of 2021 will be positive for everyone.  

If you have questions or concerns about your return to the workplace or the workplace itself, we are here to help.  

Articles on the LegalShield.ca website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice or opinion in any manner. Laws mentioned in the articles vary from province to province. Any links to third-party sites in our articles are for general information purposes only and LegalShield is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, the content of linked sites. It is always advisable to seek legal counsel - and LegalShield can help.

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