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Recommendations for Managing Ill Employees

The following recommendations provide general guidance to plan for and respond to employees who may become ill with COVID-19.  These recommendations should not be considered legal advice and employers should consult their health and safety representatives as well as their legal counsel.  Please note, the HNHU is not responsible to address health and safety complaints issued by employees against their employers.  Employees and employers seeking further direction on occupational health and safety measures should consult the Ministry of Labour Health & Safety Contact Centre at 1-800-202-0008.

Preparedness

  • Review and apply provincial health and safety guidance documents applicable to your business
  • Apply the Hierarchy of Controls to eliminate or mitigate COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.
  • Develop policies and procedures to address workplace safety for COVID-19. Such policies and procedures can include but may not be limited to:
    • Screening staff and customers for COVID-19
    • Cleaning and disinfection (including audits)
    • Hand Hygiene (including audits)
    • Social/physical distancing
    • Adjusted work schedules and work spaces
    • Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • Employee Absenteeism/Reporting an Illness
    • Employee Exclusion and Return to Work
    • Employee Illness Response
  • Educate and train staff on applicable policies and procedures as well as general COVID-19 information (e.g. symptoms, how it is transmitted, incubation period, etc). Provide resources such as videos and fact sheets for staff to reference.
  • It may be beneficial to assign a ‘point person’ for employees to turn to for COVID-19 concerns and information.
Make sure that employees know they should not come to work if:

  • they are ill;
  • they test positive for COVID-19;
  • they have just returned from travel to an affected area including inside Canada from outside of Canada;
  • they have been exposed/in close contact with someone with COVID-19; OR
  • they have been exposed/in close contact with someone suspected to have COVID-19

Response

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other illnesses, including the cold and flu. At this time, it is recommended that any worker who has symptoms related to cold, flu or COVID-19 be sent home. Public Health Ontario has provided helpful guidance on self-monitoring and self-isolation.

Should an employee become ill while working:

  • Immediately separate employees with COVID-19 symptoms. Isolate ill employee from common areas where other employees or patrons have access. If the employee is experiencing respiratory symptoms, have the employee wear a mask.  If the employee cannot move themselves to an isolation room, those who are assisting and have to come within 2 metres of the ill employee should also wear PPE (e.g. masks, gloves, eye protection, gowns).
  • Assess the ill employee’s health. Symptoms of COVID-19 can be found at: covid-19.ontario.ca
  • If the ill employee has COVID-19 symptom(s), direct them to go home or seek medical assistance. Please note:  symptomatic individuals are not allowed to take public transportation.
    • If the ill employee is to go home on their own, advise them to self-isolate and contact:
      • their health care provider;
      • Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000; or
      • their local public health unit (for the HNHU call 519-426-6170 ext. 9999)
    • For urgent medical assistance, call 911. Let the 911 operator know that the ill employee may have COVID-19.
    • If the matter is less urgent but the employee requires assistance with getting to a medical facility (e.g. hospital, doctor’s office), be sure to contact the medical facility prior to going there. Additionally, the ill employee should sit in the back seat of the vehicle with the windows down (if possible).  PPE is also recommended for both the driver and ill employee if possible.  Only one person should accompany the ill employee in the vehicle to reduce potential exposure to others.
  • Symptomatic employees should follow hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette and maintain at least 2 metres away from other employees and patrons while leaving the premises.
  • Close off areas used by the ill employee to clean and disinfect them. Adequate PPE should be worn when cleaning and disinfecting the area(s).  Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaning and disinfection products, including storing them securely away from children.  See the HNHU’s Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings fact sheet for more information.
  • Begin identifying potential close contacts of the ill employee has been in contact with that day and in the 48 hours prior to when their symptoms started. By collecting this information early on, public health officials will be better able to direct the employer and employee of next steps. These include anyone who:
    • Had direct contact with infectious body fluids or the ill employee.
    • Had close prolonged contact with the ill employee (i.e. within 2 metres and for 15 minutes or longer).
    • Had close contact with the ill employee (i.e. greater than 2 metres and/or less than 15 minutes).
  •  Contact your local public health unit for further direction (HNHU- 519-426-6170 ext. 9999).

  Should an employee test positive for COVID-19:

An employee who tests positive for COVID-19, whether symptomatic or not, are not to attend work and should be self-isolating at home for a period as determined by public health authorities.  If symptomatic, this is usually 14 days from the start of their symptoms.  If the employee is not showing symptoms, the 14 days usually starts from the day they were tested.  Please note, negative COVID-19 test results does not necessarily mean that the employee can return to work.

Where an employee tests positive for COVID-19, local public health authorities (based on where the ill person resides) will also commence contact tracing to identify anyone who may have been exposed (if they have not already done so).  Public health authorities will go back 14 to 16 days from the onset of the ill employee’s symptoms and use certain criteria to determine if persons identified are to be classified as a contact and require further follow-up.  The public health authority will contact these people to provide further direction.

As an employer, be prepared to:

  • inform co-workers who were exposed and send those workers home for two weeks
  • ask those workers to self-isolate and self-monitor and report any COVID- 19 like illness to their employer
  • shut down the job site while the affected workplace and equipment are disinfected
  • implement other measures based on the advice of public health officials

Concerned Employees

If an employee has concerns that a co-worker has respiratory symptoms, the worker should raise concerns with their:

  • supervisor
  • joint health and safety committee
  • health and safety representative (if one exists)

This will help the employer ensure that workers have taken all reasonable precautions in the circumstances to protect themselves and other workers.

Reporting Requirements for the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development

If an employer is advised that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 due to exposure at the workplace, or that a claim has been filed with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), the employer is required to notify:

  • the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development in writing within four days
  • the workplace joint health and safety committee or a health and safety representative
  • a trade union (if applicable)