Staff Exposure to COVID-19
What should I do if an employee informs me they have been exposed to COVID-19?
If an employee is concerned they may have come into direct contact with an individual with COVID-19, they should monitor their own health. If they develop symptoms of COVID-19 (fever over 38 degrees, cough, respiratory issues), employers should instruct the employee not to come to work, to self isolate, and to visit Alberta Health Services’ Self-Assessment Tool for further guidance.
What should I do if an employee develops symptoms of COVID-19?
Make sure employees know they should report respiratory illness to their employer. If they develop symptoms, they should self-isolate at home for at least 10 days following the onset of cough, fever, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, difficulty breathing and/or shortness of breath or until symptoms resolve, whichever takes longer. They should also:
Can an employer require an employee to advise if:
- they have been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
- they have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19; or
- they have travelled recently to an affected area?
In the present circumstances it is reasonable to require disclosure due the risk of transmission. The Government of Canada routinely posts travel notices, categorizing the risk factor of areas outside of Canada. Employers and employees are encouraged to check this site regularly. Attendance at large gatherings is also discouraged and should be monitored.
Employers should ensure any medical information about an employee is kept in a secure location. It may be necessary to advise other employees there has been a case of COVID-19 confirmed in the workplace. However, any disclosure should avoid identifying information and be limited to the extent it is necessary to take precautions to protect health and safety.
Does a hotel have a duty to notify employees of quarantined or self-isolating guests?
A hotel does not have a legal duty to notify employees of a quarantined or self-isolating guest in the hotel, provided adequate measures are taken to ensure the guest’s presence doesn’t pose a risk to health & safety in the workplace. However, hotels should consider proactive disclosure to employees, as this can limit the spread of misinformation and ease employee concerns.
The notification can include:
- Information about how the quarantine came to pass (i.e., by order under the Quarantine Act)
- Anticipated length of the quarantine
- Safety measures taken by the hotel (and public health authorities) to ensure the safety of employees and guests
- Who to speak to if an employee has questions
Can an employee refuse work because of a fear of contracting COVID-19?
Hotel employees have the right to refuse to perform work if they hold a bona fide belief a “physical condition” in the workplace constitutes a risk to their health or safety. Generally, this involves concern over equipment or machinery. However, it is possible “physical condition” may also include concern for the spread of a serious illness such as COVID-19.
Minimizing Risk of Exposure to COVID-19
Should employees remain at least six feet apart while on a jobsite?
Hotels should make their best efforts to abide by Alberta Health Services’ recommendations regarding social distancing and hygiene. Employers may consider:
- Staggering shift start and end times, breaks, and meal times.
- Regularly cleaning & disinfecting lunch and break areas
- Limiting the number of workers in one area at a time, if possible
How should I handle staff living in facility-provided housing?
Develop plans regarding isolation areas for ill individuals. If staff need to be isolated, they should be provided a separate room and
bathroom where possible. For more information, see the Government of Alberta’s Self-Isolation Information Sheet.
How can my hotel minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19?
Suggested ideas include:
- Front Desk:
- Install physical barriers, such as cubicles, partitions, or windows to separate staff and guests. A table could also be placed in front of the front desk to keep guests from getting too close to front desk employees (Read more on designing effective barriers)
- Place reference markers (e.g., markings on the floor) that set out two-metre distances
- Consider alternatives to a paper check-in, such as:
- Encouraging online check-ins
- Having guests fill out their information on a tablet instead of paper, and disinfect the tablet after use
- Ensuring the credit card reader is positioned so guests can swipe their cards themselves, and consider bypassing guest signatures
- Consider “curbside” check ins, rather that having guests come to the front desk
- At the end of each shift, clean and disinfect any items used by staff (e.g., computers, photocopier, telephones, etc.)
- Require all personal communication devices (e.g., phones & walkie-talkies) to be disinfected at the start and end of each shift
- Direct employees to regularly disinfect their workspaces (e.g., computers, housekeeping carts, vacuums, etc.)
- Hotel Amenities & Services:
- Consider closing the guest business centre, or if this it not feasible, disinfect computer keyboards after each use
- Consider closing pools, hot tubs, spas, and fitness centres
- Consider discontinuing hotel shuttles and courtesy vehicles, and consider reimbursing guests for taxi or ride-sharing expenses
- Guest Rooms:
- Remove non-essential items from guest rooms, such as flowers, notepads, pens, hotel services advertisements, coffee table books, menus, etc.
- Remove guest room decorative throw pillows and bed scarves
- Reduce bed pillows to two per bed
- Consider not providing full housekeeping for any guests at this time. You may want to consider following housekeeping procedures recommended in Recommended Procedures for Hotels with Self-Isolating Guests
- No employees should enter the room of a guest who is self isolating or who has COVID-19 symptoms
- Accepting Packages, Supply Orders, & Mail:
- Pre-pay or pay online for orders
- Ask delivery workers to drop off orders outside
- Wear gloves when collecting mail and accepting packages. Dispose of them using proper glove removal and disposal method after each delivery or mail pick-up, and wash hands thoroughly
- Remove and dispose of envelopes and packaging outside
- Disinfect products as much as possible before bringing them inside
- Disinfect any surfaces that may have been touched during the delivery (e.g., door handles, pens, elevator buttons, etc.)
Reporting Cases of COVID-19
Must an employer report a suspected case of COVID-19 in an employee to Public Health?
An employer is not legally required to report a suspected case of COVID-19 to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Such an obligation will fall to the medical practitioner treating the patient.
Must an employer report a case of COVID-19 in an employee to the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) of Alberta?
If your worker is at greater risk than the general public of contracting the virus while at work, and they lose time from work after contracting the virus, report the claim to WCB. However, if your staff is NOT at greater risk than the general public of contracting the infection, you do not need to report.
Do I report cases where one staff member caught COVID-19 from a co-worker to WCB?
No. Coronaviruses like COVID-19 can be caught through contacts in the community, home, or work.
What happens when I submit a COVID-19 claim to WCB?
Like any other claim, WCB-Alberta must determine whether exposure to the disease arose out of the course of employment and was caused by an employment hazard (in this case, workplace exposure to the virus). If the illness meets the conditions for coverage, WCB-Alberta will cover medical aid costs and any time lost as a result of the condition.