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.
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.