During these long winter months, many of us find ourselves dreaming about sandy beaches, warmer weather, piña coladas and visiting family and friends. But the reality of life amidst a pandemic, is that travel is not only challenging, but it's also not recommended by the Canadian government. See resource here.
As an employer, you may be wondering what impact non-essential travel will have on you and your employees, so we have created a list of FAQ's on this topic.
With regards to inter-provincial travel, can we legally require an employee to self-isolate?
Yes, you can, but it is not a legal mandate. That means that you will be required to pay the employee their regular wages based on their regular working schedule if you are requiring them to self-isolate above and beyond the provincial requirements.
If an employee returns from a vacation to another province and they are asymptomatic, can we allow them back to work?
Yes. Unless the employee has been in direct contact with an exposure and has been notified of a self-isolation requirement, the employee may come back to work as long as they are asymptomatic
Is it necessary to require a negative COVID test before an employee can return to work after interprovincial travel?
No, as long as the employee has no symptoms and hasn't been in contact with anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 (if the employee has been in contact with someone with a confirmed case, then the regular self-isolation rules and test requirements apply regardless of interprovincial travel)
If an employee is required to isolate, but is only eligible for 2 weeks off in vacation time, do they then take 2 weeks unpaid?
If the province has mandated self-isolation requirements for interprovincial travel, then the 2-week self-isolation period would be unpaid (the employee made a voluntary choice to travel for personal reasons). If the province has not mandated self-isolation requirements (as it presently stands) and you are withholding work from this employee, you will be required to pay the employee for that self-isolation period.
Can an employee be terminated for travelling internationally during COVID-19?
As an employer you have the right to terminate any employees, without cause, for any reason as long as that reason is not discriminatory. You do not need a specific reason to terminate an employee and can go ahead and do so as long as you are willing to provide them with notice, or pay in-lieu of notice, of termination. HOWEVER, you are not going to terminate this employee because they chose to go on vacation internationally. If you approved their two weeks' vacation, but not their two weeks of required self-isolation upon return, that could potentially be classified as job abandonment, but based on the fragility of the situation we would want you to work with an employment lawyer in navigating this case-by-case specific issue.
If this is a financial burden on the employee, should we advise them not to travel?
At the end of the day, you can't tell an employee what to do or not do on their time off from work. Their personal decisions are just that- their decisions. The only thing you can do, is notify them of the risks and remind them that if they have confirmed exposures on vacation, they will have to self-isolate for 2 weeks unpaid (as they would if they had a local COVID-19 exposure) and make sure that they are very clear about the conditions of the situation.
If one or more of your employees are considering travel either internationally or inter-provincially, have a conversation with them and remind them that the provincial and international requirements can change overnight (as they did on many occasions last year).
If they do decide to go, and any requirements change during the time leading up to vacation, or while they are on vacation, make sure they understand that you, as a business owner, are going to follow all government mandates at that point in time.
At the end of the day, you can't tell an employee what to do or not do in their off time. Their personal decisions are their personal decisions. The only thing you can do is notify them of the risks and make sure they are fully aware of the guidelines in place.
Have other questions regarding travel and COVID-19? Feel free to send us a message!