Updated on September 11, 2020

  • Can I require employees to be tested for COVID-19? 

    In Canada, you will need to look to your provincial government resources to determine what the testing guidelines are for your region. Overall, you cannot require your employees to be tested if they are asymptomatic and if they have not travelled, had any contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed positive for COVID-19, or been contacted for contact tracing due to an outbreak.

    Policies that prevent employees from returning to work until a negative test result is obtained may be risking future constructive dismissal claims. We recommend consulting with an HR or Employment Law professional for a specific question in this category to minimize the amount of risk you take on as an employer when implementing a testing policy. Overall, if you have a reason to suspect that the employee may have COVID-19, ask them to be tested. Otherwise, trust your team to self-report if they are ill.

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  • Can I require employees to take a COVID-19 antibodies test? 

    An antibodies test, or a serological test, is not effective in detecting the virus itself, therefore employers should not require employees to take a COVID-19 antibodies test. If an employee volunteers to complete an antibody test, and it emerges that the employee has the antibodies for SARS-COV-2 then the employer must be mindful of any implicit or explicit discrimination that may take place within the workplace. Again, antibodies tests are regulated by the provincial government, therefore for more information, you should look to your provincial government resources. 
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  • Should I send an employee home if they are sick or have COVID-19 symptoms?

    When coming to work each day, your employees should be asked to self-report any virus-related symptoms if they have any (including fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or sore throat). During this self-report, you must be mindful of any pre-existing conditions that your employees have. If an employee reports having one or more of these symptoms, or if you observe them, then the CDC has recommended that the employee either stays home or that they are sent home from work.
    As an employer, you must determine the amount of risk that you are willing to take on regarding sending employees home from work without pay or not. If you knowingly keep an employee at work who is presenting at least one symptom in order to prevent you from being short-staffed and then this employee infects multiple patients or other employees, you could be held responsible for others getting sick if you knowingly asked them to stay at work after they have self-reported symptoms to you. While being short-staffed for a day is not ideal, having to close down your office for weeks because multiple employees are sick, and the legal issues that will follow due to your negligence are much worse. 

  • What do I do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19?

    Step 1: Put the employee on a temporary leave of absence and keep in touch with them to make sure that they are okay and to follow their progression through the course of this virusStep 2: Notify all others that they had contact with based on the timeline given from the infected employees health provider. Step 3: Provide other employees who had contact with the infected employee with two options:- Self-isolate and get a COVID-19 test – if a negative test result is obtained, then they may come back to work right away (most time-efficient method)- Self-isolate for 14 days (not time efficient – will likely result in office closures)Step 4: Schedule a deep-clean/sanitize/disinfection of the entire officeStep 5: Take a deep breath and regroup! Look at your schedule and available staff, enlist the help of your admin team to contact any patients that need to be rescheduled. 
    **Remember: Do not disclose which employee received a positive test result**

  • When should I let the employee come back to work? 

    Work with your employee’s health care providers to determine the best course of action.

    If the employee received a test because they were symptomatic, but received a negative test result, they should return to work when symptoms have resolved.

    If the employee received a test because they were symptomatic, and received a positive test result, they should return to work when symptoms have resolved. Employees may also volunteer to get re-tested and will hopefully receive a negative test result meaning that they can return to work but this is not necessary as deemed by the CDC (

    If the employee received a test because they were asymptomatic but had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed positive, and they receive a negative test result, they can return to work so long as they do not have any symptoms.

    If the employee received a test because they were asymptomatic but had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed positive, and they receive a positive test result, they are required to self-isolate for 14 days. If they are still asymptomatic at the completion of the self-isolation period, employees are able to return to work.

    It is recommended to have employees supply some sort of information stating that they are cleared to return to work from their general healthcare professional. Then the health care professional can determine if a secondary COVID-19 test is required or not for the specific situation. Based on health information privacy legislation, this is a strong recommendation but cannot be a bona fide occupational requirement.

  • If employees have been exposed but are not showing symptoms, should I allow them to work? 

    If an employee has a known and confirmed exposure, they are required to self-isolate for 14 days, or until they receive a negative test result, whichever comes first.
    Other employees that this employee has been in close contact with should self-monitor for symptoms and wear cloth face-covering whenever in public and in the workplace.

  • What should I do if I find out several days later, after an employee worked, that they were diagnosed with COVID-19? 

    If the employee was diagnosed with COVID-19 and has been in the workplace within the past 7 days, the workplace should receive a deep-clean/full disinfection before anyone else comes into the office. 
    If the employee was diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not entered the workplace for 8+ days, then no additional cleaning measures are required. 
    Other employees who have been in close contact with this employee within the past 7 days should be asked to self-monitor for symptoms, limit the amount of close contact they have with others, and wear a face-covering when in the office and in public. Employees that had close contact with the infected employee, and that have symptoms, are required to self-isolate immediately and follow the protocols as stipulated above. 
    **Remember: Do not disclose which employee received a positive test result**

  • Can I restrict employees from personal travel?  

    Unfortunately, while it might seem to be in everyone’s best interest, as their employer, you really don’t have any say in what the employees do in their time off. If you have approved an employee’s time off and they are traveling out of the country, it is recommended that you discuss with them the federal requirement to then self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days. Remind the employee that this will be an unpaid leave of absence, and then start looking for someone to cover for them for the time that they are gone.

  • What steps should employers take to maintain a safe workspace during the back to school season?   

    The first thing that all employers should be doing is continuing with strict COVID-19 protocols that have been in place for the last 6 months. We’re at the point where we’re really going to start to see employees’ fatigue from the continued increase in PPE requirements, additional protocols, and just the overall stress of the pandemic as their family members return to school and work. 
    Employers should be mindful that new accommodations may need to be made for employees who have children in childcare or in school. Check out your provincial legislation and guidelines to determine what sort of protected leaves have been enacted for workers who must go on an unpaid leave of absence for childcare needs. Are you ready for if any of your employees need to go on an extended leave of absence due to school closure? Our team is here to help you structure your contingency plans so that you’re ready for many different potential circumstances.

  • Can I make employees get tested in order to return to work? 

    The short answer to this is no. COVID-19 tests are not always 100% accurate, therefore requiring a symptom-free and otherwise healthy employee to receive a negative COVID-19 test may trigger future claims of constructive dismissal if the employee is off of work for longer than the temporary layoff terms that you have in place. 
    If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, work with the employee’s health care professional to develop a comprehensive return to work program and to determine the timeline of reintegration to work for the employee. 

  • Things to consider when employee is traveling  

    To start with, ensure that you are eliminating all business required travel. 
    If you have an employee who is travelling during their approved vacation time, discuss with them the relative risks of travel to the area that they will be going to. As well, determine if the employee will be in close contact with a number of people (especially if they are travelling to a high-risk region) and remind the employee of the importance of physical distancing protocols.
    Finally, if the employee is travelling to a region where isolation is required upon return, remind the employee that they will be put on an unpaid leave of absence for the required period of self-isolation when they return from their vacation. 
    During this time, it is recommended that you use your best judgement on how to handle the following protocol after the employee returns from their vacation. We recommend the following courses of action:
    If the employee has travelled out of the country, they are required to self-isolate for a minimum period of 14 days.
    If the employee has travelled out of province, determine if they are going to a “hot-spot” and discuss self-isolation requires as dictated by the provincial legislation.
    If the employee is travelling somewhere where a self-isolation period is not required upon return, discuss with the employee

  • Do I have to pay employee if they are quarantining after travel? 

    If the employee is voluntarily travelling on time off of work, then you are not required to pay the employee during their period of self-isolation. The employee may ask to be paid any accumulated banked time at this time, or they may apply for applicable government funding if available. 
    If you are requiring the employee to travel to an area where it would then be required for them to self-isolate for 14 days, then you may be required to pay the employee during this self-isolation period (utilization of the CEWS would be applicable here). As well, if you are asking that an employee travels to a potentially dangerous area, or a ‘hot spot’, remember that employees have the right to refuse dangerous work – now that COVID-19 has been classified as an occupational hazard under the Canada Labour Code, employees may have a right to refuse work mandated travel.

  • Pros and cons of voluntary payment during employer-imposed quarantine 

    As employers, we must realize that all of our employees may not able to feasibly take a period of time off of work with no pay. This may cause some internal conflict with the employee and propagate poor practices, such as presenteeism, within the workplace. 
    As long as government subsidy programs are in effect, employees should be made aware of the funding available to pay for time off to self-isolate while waiting for test results if the need ever arises. Emphasize your commitment towards controlling the spread of COVID-19 and this will help to create a culture of trust within your practice where your employees feel safe to discuss their concerns and be truthful with you. If possible, you may even look into providing the employee with some pay while they are on a leave of absence, especially if you still have access to subsidies like the CEWS. The better your culture is, the less likely that you will be to have employees that abuse this system and lead you to be short-staffed.