Canadian employers are legally obligated to take every reasonable precaution in the circumstances to protect the health and safety of employees. This duty also applies to shield workers from COVID-19, covers industry, and jurisdictional criteria. Although government directives and regulations can vary, employers may take a variety of steps to work towards maintaining a safe and healthy place of work. To prepare for the safe and healthy reopening of any workplace, it is important to consider which stakeholders should be included in all necessary steps and procedures to ensure health and safety, and other legal compliance. as highlighted in the article “Employer’s duty to protect health and safety”.
Firstly, reopening job refusals are a key problem for many employers. Jobs in Canada usually have the right to reject unsafe or unduly hazardous work if they have valid concerns about health and safety. In general, after an employee refuses to work because it is dangerous, the work cannot continue until an investigation is conducted and determines whether the refusal is justified. In some jurisdictions, the law expressly requires that the employer pay the rejected employee and make sure that he or she is in a safe place while the investigation is ongoing.
To mitigate this risk, employers may want to involve workers in some reopening or returning conversations and address any legitimate safety concerns raised in that context. In practice, this may take the form of consultations with an employee or a representative of a trade union. Requesting employee input may also be facilitated by the introduction of a confidential and voluntary employee reporting that allows workers to raise any concerns they might have about the safety of the workplace. (Source: Norton Rose Fulbright LLP., 2020).
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