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Workplace Pandemic Plans: What Employers Should Know

Originally posted on February 27, 2020 by  at Global HR Lawyers – In A Flash – Matthews Dinsdale

With COVID-19 appearing prominently in news headlines these days, both federal and provincial governments are encouraging preparedness. What is an employer’s responsibility to employees in the event of wide-scale infection? What steps can an employer take in advance to ensure preparedness? While specific guidelines and responsibilities exist for those working in health care, an employer in any industry can benefit from having a workplace pandemic plan in place.

A pandemic is an epidemic crossing international boundaries. While the decision that a pandemic exists is made by the WHO, a high incidence of infection in Canada or a region of Canada could still lead to the need for extraordinary measures. In such circumstances, the responsible authority would be the Chief Public Health Officer and/or local authorities in affected provinces or territories.

In the event COVID19 spreads widely within Canada, employers have the same legal duties under occupational health and safety, employment standards and human rights legislation as they would with any other illness impacting employees. One of the primary considerations will be whether employees can reasonably refuse to attend work for safety reasons if and when COVID19 is present in the workplace.

Employers may also be subject to additional duties in the event that an outbreak of illness rises to the level of “emergency”. Every jurisdiction in Canada has legislation in place for emergency measures and some specifically contemplate public health emergencies (e.g. Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act and Alberta’s Public Health Act). B.C.’s Public Health Act confers upon the provincial health officer special emergency powers regarding the reporting of personal information, which would apply in the event an emergency is declared. During an emergency, those powers would apply notwithstanding any applicable privacy legislation.

A comprehensive workplace pandemic plan should include the following elements, tailored to the particular needs of your organization, and developed in consultation with the joint occupational health and safety committee or worker’s representative, and union representative, where appropriate:

  • Leadership
    Ensure your organization is prepared to address the issue. Designate key employees who will manage the employer’s response to any pandemic. Make an actual plan to respond to the risk of a pandemic impacting the workplace.
  • Communication
    Consider what types of information you will need to obtain in the event of a pandemic and the information you will need to disseminate. Identify in advance where you will be able to find up-to-date and reliable information about a disease outbreak, including its current status, symptoms and prevention strategies, and where to receive medical care. Develop a strategy for communicating the necessary information to employees in a format that is easily accessible from home.
  • Risk Management and Containment
    Consider workplace strategies for reducing the spread of illness. Ensure basic supplies such as hand-hygiene products, tissues and receptacles are available in all locations.Consider policies that would be implemented in the event of a pandemic to limit the opportunities for disease transmission, such as employee “work from home” strategies, staggering shift starts and breaks to reduce the number of people in the workplace at a time, and arranging work stations to maintain distance between individuals.
  • Continuity
    Consider the potential impact of a pandemic on your business. Is demand for your products or services likely to increase or decrease? Identify the essential employees to meet the change in demand. Consider how a pandemic might affect your ability to obtain other critical inputs (e.g. shipping of raw materials). What if your employees are subject to a quarantine?  Does the business need to operate every day? Can it sustain a shutdown?Employee absenteeism is likely to be one of the biggest concerns. Employees may be sick themselves, may need leave to care for sick family members, or may wish to remain home due to fear of contracting illness. Predictions for absenteeism during a local outbreak vary by industry, but a general recommendation for employers is to plan for an absenteeism rate of between 20 to 25% during a peak two-week period of an outbreak in a specific area, with lower absenteeism in the weeks before and after.Refer to occupational health and safety legislation, employment standards legislation, as well as your organization’s own policies and collective agreement (if applicable), to determine what types of leave are available to employees, including the issue of work refusals.
  • Recovery
    The return to “business as usual” will likely take place gradually as the pandemic draws to an end. Consider phases of recovery in your workplace pandemic plan. Which aspects of your business are likely to return to normal first?

While this article provides the basics of developing a workplace pandemic plan, the World Health Organization has just published specific guidance on how to prevent the spread of COVID19 in the workplace and encourages employers to adopt these measures presently.

Additional planning tools are available to employers from federal and provincial governments in Canada. Once you and your team have developed your plan, set dates for its review. Consider testing some aspects of the plan as needed.

Though workplace pandemic plans, by design, contemplate the worst scenarios of disease outbreaks, employers can play a role in preventing the everyday spread of illness by encouraging good health practices among employees. For example, posters and employee handouts can be used for education and awareness at the workplace. Even in the absence of pandemic or severe outbreak, employee illness can have an impact on an employer’s business and operations. Efforts at preventing the spread of illness at the workplace may benefit employers before any extraordinary measures are required.

If you have any questions about this topic or would like assistance with developing and/or reviewing pandemic plans, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

 

This editorial is not intended as legal advice.  Any employer or organization seeking assistance should feel free to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer for assistance.

 

Are You Recruiting Proactively vs Reactively?

Are you recruiting efforts proactive or reactive? As I asked that question to many recruiter friends, most would say that they are definitely proactive. After all, they spend countless hours at events to get candidates to apply. Then they comb through resumes to filter for the candidates that best fit their needs. For some conversations, I can see the point when they realize that they are only screening the resumes they receive. They “react” to whatever resumes are submitted to the posting. Then they ask themselves whether or not the right candidates are applying. They see how they can become more “proactive”.

Another way to put this would be to imagine that your job is to find the best apple in the orchard. You want a sweet, tasty, juicy apple. However, you can only make guesses based on what you see on the outside. You want an apple that is big, but not too big. Red, but not too red.
You have two choices:
Going into the vast orchard and finding potentially perfect candidate apples.
The other is to go into a basket of apples that were randomly put there by other people.
Which option would you choose?

When I was the lead of the undergrad campus recruiting program for one of the big four consulting companies, we were often at the mercy of the quality of the candidates that applied. We hoped that our info sessions and branding got some good candidates to submit their applications. However, it wasn’t until we decided to go more proactive with our efforts that we saw more fruits of our labour…

Reactive recruiters often choose the basket option. Posting a job on their corporate website and job boards. Then hoping the right candidates will apply. To “be proactive” and increase their chances of having better “apples” in their basket, they run info sessions, go to career fairs and networking events to encourage the right candidates to head into the basket. While these activities may seem proactive as they are out in the market, they are really at the mercy of whoever decides to show up. They pick the best apple in the basket. Which might not be the best apples in the orchard.

For me, the challenge of reactive recruiting was magnified when recruiting for a not-for-profit. The not-for-profit has a much less known brand and fewer resources to react to the candidates, let alone be proactive. We weren’t able to attract as many of the right apples into the basket as we wanted.

Proactive recruiters will often choose the option to go into the orchard. They look at their contact list and past connections to see who might be qualified. They leverage platforms like LinkedIn to actively search for qualified candidates. They leverage their networks to crowdsource candidates. they’ve already built, to cast the net wide in search of the perfect candidates. They go into the orchard and fill their baskets.

Keep in mind that the orchard is huge. It would take much too long to search each tree in each part of the orchard on your own. Or it would be too costly to hire other “apple searchers” to search around the orchard where you haven’t looked before.

However, keep in mind that past searches can be an investment. You might find that certain parts of the orchard have better trees. Those trees tend to yield better types of apples. Also keep in mind that you could also create some magical magnetic properties of your basket to allow apples to be attracted to your basket. You’ll just need to take care that the apples you’re attracting are the right ones.

To be proactive, we still did info sessions, BUT we also started implementing referral programs to crowdsource the apple search. As the saying goes “birds of a feather, flock together”. So if we hired them, they’ll likely have friends and acquaintances with similarly attractive characteristics. We looked to have our coops become our brand ambassadors to help spread the word on their great experiences. Great experiences seem to attract “tastier apples” (yes, the analogy gets a bit weird here, but you know what I mean).

We looked to reverse-engineer where our best candidates came from or correlating attributes so that we could hunt in that part of the orchard and look at those trees.

We judged and sponsored case competitions, hackathons and other events where we could see candidates in action. After all, the best-looking apples (according to their outward resume), aren’t necessarily the sweetest or juiciest.

We look to find more innovative proactive search and attraction methods.

So as you think of all of the work you’re spending to screen your apples, take a moment to think whether you’re spending the time to make sure the right apples end up in the basket in the first place!

 

About the Author

Luki Danukarjanto is Toronto’s youth career coach with a goal to make Toronto the mentorship capital of the world. Published author of “SIWIKE Stuff I Wish I Knew Earlier, educator, youth startup advisor, dad. Career catalyst, “personal trainer for careers” and DJ for personal/professional development with goals to elevate education, weave mentorship into the fabric of society and positively impact a billion people. Former Senior Manager Tech Consulting with Deloitte and undergrad campus recruiting lead. Connect with Luki on LinkedIn​.

Bridging the Gen Z Gap: Understanding how to help recent graduates successfully transition into the workplace

Bridging the Gen Z Gap: Understanding how to help recent graduates successfully transition into the workplace.

Throughout my 15+ years as a recruitment professional, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for helping new grads transition into their first corporate role. A deep desire to help them land their first job was a result of my own experience struggling to find my way in the world.  I want to share the personal wisdom I gained and help them successfully grow their careers through mentoring and coaching support.

What have I observed?

The challenges new graduates face have not really changed from Gen X, but in the last few years, I’ve observed, firsthand, a much larger disadvantage for Gen Z during this major life transition.  Gen Z is often confused as an extension of Millennials, but they are distinctively different.  They are the first generation to never know a world without wifi, social media, and instant gratification.  They were part of a democratic school system and households, where there was no traditional hierarchy of power and consequences, everyone was a winner and there were no losers or failures. Probably the most impactful trend was that they were a generation that was highly overscheduled and constantly stimulated, not allowed to be bored or unhappy. Boredom is critical for imaginative play/thinking, and learning to deal with negative emotion, is an important psychological coping skill.  The absence of learning to manage emotions and stretch brain muscles is likely the root cause for why overall, Gen Z struggles with much higher levels of anxiety and depression. They lack the resiliency to face the world that is run by Millennials, Gen X and Boomers.

What can educators and employers do to help bridge this gap?

First, understand, it is not optional. We must help Gen Z with this transition into the workforce, because having them tough it out (as we might have had to), will lead to a higher level of mental illness, in a generation where mental illness is already significantly higher1 and a future workforce that is not as productive.  Second, seek to understand their perspective and then give them the support and tools to empower them.

For employers, onboarding is important. On-going clarity of your expectations of them, and how they can own their own development and successfully navigate their career, is even more important.  They likely expect that they will be given continuous direction and rewards, and you will drive their career for them – so showing them they own their success and happiness is step one.

For educators, provide insights while they are still in a learning environment, on how to prepare for this critical life transition. Soon-to-be grads are on the brink of one of the most challenging transitions they will face.

So, what is the secret sauce?

Interestingly, the ‘secret sauce’ would likely help all of us be happier, in a world where we all spend less time being present than we should.  To fully accept the present moment as it is, without judgement, is the foundational skill I teach new graduates through learning mindfulness. It is the basis from which all else will follow.  Next, I help guide them in clarifying their purpose and values from which they will decide their goals, and where to focus their attention and talents.  Research reinforces that understanding personal values is paramount for career success; the least committed leaders are those who understand company values,  but not their own.2 So, first, learn to engage fully with the present moment, and then integrate purpose and values into being in all aspects of their job search (interview, personal brand), job performance, and career development.  A natural consequence of mindfulness and purposefulness is happiness – in both our professional and personal lives. Happiness is self derived, rather than an expectation for others to provide.  Moreover, mindfulness helps build resiliency, so that when failures or disappointments happen, they won’t be devastating.

What’s in it for me?

Once Gen Z is thriving and finding the right ‘fit’ in a company and on a purposeful path, we will start to see a big reward ourselves.  They will overperform, as they are driving to be a part of something bigger than themselves.  They will be extremely loyal, and unlike Millennials, will want to stick around for the long haul with your company.  They will give back and want to mentor others recent graduates entering the business.  As you can see, the dividends greatly outweigh the investment.  It really comes down to your willingness to help this generation bridge the gap!


1 American Psychological Association – March 15, 2019, Mental health issues increased significantly in young adults over last decade

2 James M Kouzes and Barry S Posner, The Leadership Challenge 4th edition


 Bio:

Lana Burton is a talent acquisition executive and founder of Be META, an organization that helps Generation Z to recognize and realize their potential.

As a working mother of two, she knows how to connect the intimate needs of others and still make time to do the work that we all need to do within.

Connect with Lana on LinkedIn or via email at Be_META@outlook.com.

An Amplification of HR Legal Trends from the Last Decade

In our ever-changing workforce, it’s more important than ever for employers to stay on top of HR trends and what legal implications they may have on their organization, workplace culture and overall brand. We had the chance to speak with Greg McGinnis, Partner at Matthews Dinsdale & Clark LLP, about upcoming trends in employment law. What we discovered was that the trends from the latter half of the last decade are amplifying. Read on to see how. 

Although there have been many societal shifts within the last few years, Greg comments that there really aren’t any new or radical changes in employment law, but rather previous trends are continuing. He does mention, however, that there’s a common theme or phenomenon happening as a result of previous trends, like the #MeToo movement, legalization of Cannabis and diversity in the workforce, which is fostering an increased demand for flexibility and zero tolerance for toxic workplaces. 

Flexibility and Accommodation

“The main trend, if I can call it that, is that people are looking for flexibility in their work. They’re looking for flexibility in terms of hours of work, days of work, time off when they need it. The big trend is that employees want their work to fit in with their lives, and so employers are increasingly having to accommodate that kind of flexibility. That comes in all kinds of different forms. One form would be people who have young children, who want the time for child care or to attend events in their kids’ lives. Then you also have, especially in Canada, a large population of people who come from other places originally and they travel, so they want to have longer periods of time off to visit family or just travel. There’s an increasing trend towards flexibility at work, where it could be accommodated.” 

“The idea that work is Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 and you better just show up – that concept has slowly been eroding for a long time and it’s continuing to erode. There are of course jobs where you need to be [at work] for certain time periods, but even then, people will want extended time off. We see this in every domain, from factory workers to office workers. People are demanding that their personal life and needs are reflected at work.” 

Zero Tolerance for Toxic Workplaces

As a result of the same societal factors that gave rise to the #MeToo movement, Greg has found that the number of complaints being made that require the employer to carry out investigations has significantly increased. “I would say the #MeToo movement is a reflection of the same underlying phenomenon that people aren’t prepared to be treated poorly or suffer in silence. There’s next to no tolerance for toxic workplace behaviour. It is increasingly important for employers to ensure their workplace provides a positive, constructive atmosphere for people to work in and if they don’t do it, they will be facing a requirement to invest in workplace investigations…There’s a whole raft of time-consuming expensive consequences that can result from not dealing with these problems.” 

Diversity 

Diversity is an important value for many organizations. In Greg’s experience, diversity hiring has to be managed effectively by most employers to ensure all job seekers are given an equal opportunity to join a positive workplace, but that’s not always easy to achieve and maintain once your workforce becomes diverse. “Diversity has an impact on workplace culture because when you have new people or experiences, people come to work with different cultural expectations or behaviours that may require an adjustment on the part of the employer.”

Once you recruit a diverse workforce, you need to ensure your policies are, and the workplace is, welcoming, accommodating and, again, flexible. “You have a diverse workforce, you need a diverse workforce, then you need to find ways to reconcile new and different expectations where you need to get the work done. The challenge of diversity is that you don’t really know what’s next, you have to adapt to the people you are employing the best you can, and they need to adapt to you too.” 

Cannabis: Biggest Issue That’s a Non-issue

Now that Cannabis has been legal in Canada for over a year, there have been minimal impacts on employment law, according to Greg. “Cannabis is the big nothing. It may have a long term impact, but the short term impact has been next to zero.”

“It’s not that all of a sudden people are bringing their drugs to work or consuming drugs in a different way. Most employers in anticipation of the legalization of cannabis took another look at their fitness for duty policies, and perhaps even their testing policies and gave some thought on how to approach that. Then legalization occurred and people braced themselves for the onslaught of stoners as if all of a sudden we were all going to turn into Cheech and Chong and it just didn’t happen!”

“Outside of safety-sensitive positions where someone could be seriously injured or killed or your actions could result in someone being seriously injured, or death or property damage, the issue of cannabis has not made any difference. And I think the reason for that is – cannabis is just one intoxicant. There’s a wide array of drugs out there, legal and illegal, and the legalization of cannabis has had a marginal impact on the way cannabis impairment, specifically, has been addressed when it’s been detected.”

Gig Economy

There were concerns about the ‘gig’ economy and the impact on the career prospects for millennial and Gen Z workers, but in regards to employment law, it’s really only made employers consider instituting more flexible work environments. 

“My perspective on the gig economy is that it’s provided opportunities for people to work in small amounts on their schedule that competes with the regular employment pool. So people who want more flexibility can get it by becoming a gig worker. I think the gig economy has expanded opportunities for people. [Employers] have to recognize that their employees can go and do consulting or gig work as an alternative to regular employment. So it forces more flexibility onto employers as well.” 

 

With the evolution and expansion of trends from the last few years, Greg notes that in the legal sphere, changes in the law are harder to predict. “The world of work is driven more by cultural change than by legal change. We’re not seeing a lot of radical legal changes now or anticipated in the future. The society is changing, so we have to respond to that.” It’s important that employers are staying on the cutting edge of emerging and continuing societal and workplace trends, especially when considering incoming talent will come into the workforce with new and sometimes challenging expectations for employers to meet. 


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