Stores closed, streets empty, playgrounds taped off – we live in challenging times. As we all band together to try and limit the spread of COVID-19 and minimize deaths, we can be thankful that we live in a country where social distancing, handwashing, and getting enough to eat is, for most (though not all) of us, a part of regular life.
At the same time, many of the businesses we rely on are walking a real tightrope. Some have been forced to shut down, unsure if they will be able to sustain themselves long enough to re-open.
Others, like our team at Bergeron Clifford, are having to change their entire practice to conduct more of our work online. As noted in our recent COVID-19 note to clients, we have remote work capabilities to accommodate our team’s needs and will remain available by phone, email or video conference.
And yet others are on a hiring spree trying to keep shelves stocked and equipment working.
With the rapid pace of this pandemic, it can be hard to think beyond our immediate worries. However, it is crucial during times of change and turmoil that we support our team and clients as best as possible without introducing new and undue risks that might outlast this pandemic.
What are some examples? The businesses introducing new technological platforms must make sure client privacy and data is still protected, for instance.
With some organizations operating on skeleton crews, this may create more work and burden for remaining staff who could become burned out or injured if they take on new responsibilities, and they are not prepared.
There are also the unseen effects as families deal with disrupted routines, childcare burdens, lost income and the fear of this situation. The Government of Canada recently announced additional funding for Kids Help Phone in anticipation of increased demand for their services.
And, of course, stores that remain open must ensure their employees are protected from COVID-19 itself. Grocery stores like Loblaws were praised for adding plexiglass screens to cashier stations and for increasing wages during the pandemic. Yet on March 29, just hours after being diagnosed, a Loblaws manager in Oshawa (aged 48) died due to COVID-19.
Loblaws won’t be going out of business due to this situation – on the contrary, most large grocery stores and retailers are doing quite well financially during this pandemic. The same can not be said for the nearly 70 percent of Canadians employed by the private sector work for small businesses, which are the most affected by this pandemic.
If you work for one of Canada’s over one million small businesses, and you’re unsure about what you should do to protect your clients and fellow employees from harm, here are a few points to consider:
- Wash your hands and workstation regularly, stay home if you believe you are sick, maintain six feet (about one adult hockey stick) of distance from others, and avoid touching your face.
- Ask your employer about their well-being resources, especially if you have conditions that may make you extra susceptible to catching COVID-19.
- If you are asked to pick up new duties, ensure you are adequately cross-trained, especially where health and safety, client data, or other security concerns are a consideration.
- You may have additional childcare burdens or other challenges preventing you from working your usual hours. Ask your manager if voluntary leave or flexible working hours are an option.
- Ask your manager about the business’ contingency plans should key employees fall ill or be unable to perform their duties. You do not want to be exposed to additional risks should the business fail to prepare for the worst-case scenarios.
Community Legal Education Ontario has created an FAQ related to COVID-19 that may help answer some basic legal questions you or your employer may have around this pandemic.
For injury law questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by phone or email.
We work closely with many in the medical community across eastern Ontario, and we know this is a stressful and challenging time for our care professionals. If you know or see a nurse, doctor, medical technician, or support worker over the coming days and weeks, please join us in thanking them for their exceptional service.