During an event like the COVID-19 pandemic, employers must determine their responsibilities, along with those of employees and subcontractors.
When a health crisis hits, such as the COVID-19 global pandemic, employers must reassess their obligations to employee health and other stakeholders under the regulatory regimes in which their organization operates. Determining responsibilities is always a challenging exercise as it depends on the sector and geography in which your organization operates.
Uncertainty and long-term impact
General counsel should remember that in dynamic situations, such as a global health crisis, regulatory regimes may change at short notice. Governments utilize emergency powers, new legislation is introduced and key influencers, such as trade bodies and insurance companies, lobby authorities to respond in certain ways. It is important to have an ability to keep your operating framework up-to-date across every jurisdiction.
In addition, how the organization deals with the first phase of a crisis will then shape the position longer-term. For example, if a health crisis affects balance sheets, the organization may need to consider redundancies and contingent workforce options. Obtaining a comprehensive view of their obligations at the beginning of a crisis response, and planning and communicating accordingly, will help minimize a stressful process for employees and subcontractors facing this difficult situation.
Six key questions to consider include:
- 1. What is an employer’s obligation to employee health during a health crisis?
- 2. Does an employee need to answer his or her employer’s questions on whether the employee has recently spent time in high-risk or restricted areas?
- 3. Is there a general duty for the employer to alert government authorities if an employee tests positive to an infectious health condition?
- 4. Which steps need to be taken by the employer to alert other employees if an individual at their workplace is diagnosed with an infectious health condition?
- 5. Can an employer prohibit entry to the workplace by an employee who may be infected?
- 6. Which paid leave considerations are relevant?
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