Pandemic (Coronavirus) Risk Management Guide

This Guide is a management tool available to employers to guide them in managing the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It can be applied to any other pandemic or epidemic situation that may affect the workplace or the work performance of their employees.

Please note that this Guide does not constitute a legal opinion and does not exempt employers from acting in accordance with their contractual obligations pursuant to the applicable employment contracts or collective agreements. We invite you to contact us if you have any specific questions.

1. Prevention

Pursuant to the provisions of the Civil Code of Québec and the Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety, the employer has a legal obligation to take measures to protect the health and safety of its employees. In particular, it must ensure that its employees do not perform their work when their health condition poses a risk to their health or safety or that of other persons in or near the workplace.

Here are some steps to take: 

2. Adopting a Policy to Manage Risk Situations

We also recommend that you adopt a policy that includes the following: 

2.1. The obligation for your employees to disclose the fact that they are in one of the following three (3) risk situations: 

  • They show symptoms of or have the coronavirus;
  • A family member or other person with whom they have been in contact has the coronavirus;
  • They have travelled or transited through a city that government authorities or the World Health Organization (WHO) have identified as being a coronavirus risk area;

2.2. The obligation for employees who find themselves in any of the above-mentioned risk situations to observe a 14-day home confinement period, which also requires them to comply with instructions issued by government authorities, in particular by restricting their moves; 

2.3. Temporary measures allowing teleworking in certain situations; 

2.4. The obligation to provide a medical certificate before returning to work; 

2.5. The employer’s right to remove employees that are in any of the three (3) identified situations from the workplace for a period of 14 days or until a medical certificate is produced which attests that the person does not present a risk of contagion. 

3. What of the Remuneration of an Employee That Is Required to Observe a Period of Home Confinement ?

A person required to be absent because of one of the risk situations identified in section 2.1 shall be treated like any other absence due to illness, i.e. either: 

  • Dispose of his or her sick leave bank or his or her bank of floating holidays or personal leave, if applicable;
  • In the absence of such a bank of paid leave, the employer shall grant the person the two (2) days of paid leave per year for illness or family obligations to which he or she is entitled to under the Act respecting Labour Standards, to the extent that they have not already been used.

A person who is in one of the risk situations because of his or her work (e.g., travelled to a risk area in the course of his or her duties) will be entitled to continue to receive his or her remuneration until the employer allows the person to return to work.

A person who refuses to report to work for fear of contamination will not be able to exercise a right of refusal under an Act respecting Occupational Health and Safety if his or her work environment is not conducive to contamination and if the employer complies with the preventive measures that are recommended by government authorities.

Thus, in the event of such an unjustified refusal to report to work: 

  • The person will not be paid;
  • Depending on the circumstances, disciplinary action may be taken.

Depending on the circumstances, the applicable rules regarding a pregnant employee are those relating to preventive withdrawal pursuant to the law. 

Of course, you should consult the provisions of the applicable collective agreements, if any, to ensure that they do not contain specific rules that you must respect. If in doubt, we invite you to contact us.