Employees with Increased Risk of Severe Outcomes if Exposed to COVID-19

Who Has an Increased Risk?

There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians who are exposed to COVID-19 who:

  • are aged 65 and over
  • have compromised immune systems
  • have underlying medical conditions

Identified underlying medical conditions said to heighten the risk among patients are:

  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer

conditions that weaken the immune system, include:

  • Patients undergoing treatments for cancer
  • Patients undergoing treatments for autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS) and inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Patients with HIV
  • Anyone who has had an organ or bone marrow transplants

Although Pregnant women have not been identified as having an immune compromising medical condition as of today’s date: March 20, 2020, if you are pregnant, or believe you may be pregnant please note:

· throughout pregnancy, women experience changes in their bodies that may increase the risk of some illnesses, including viral respiratory infections, such as the flu. At this time, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that pregnant women are at a greater risk for more serious outcomes related to COVID-19 but our understanding of the virus is still in its early stages.

· It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses and take the appropriate steps to avoid and prevent infection. Proper hygiene can help reduce the risk of getting an infection or spreading an infection to others.

· If you are pregnant and concerned about COVID-19, speak to your health care provider.

Employees at Greater Risk & the Duty to Accommodate

The employer has the duty to accommodate employees who are at greater risk, to the point of undue hardship. Accommodations are unique to each workplace and the type of work that employees are performing. At this time, when we are all trying to work through this together, we are looking at employers and employees to find creative solutions. You may find additional solutions but possible accommodations for people at greater risk can be:

· Providing increased PPE coverage (N95 masks, gloves, gown, etc) in areas or for jobs that do not normally require full PPE coverage.

· Assignment only to clients that have been fully screened to ensure they, or anyone living or visiting their home, have not been exposed to COVID-19.

· Work from home if you hold a position that can be done remotely, such as some administrative/clerical positions.

Employees at Greater Risk and Job Protection

If an employee has a medical condition that is recognized as one that puts them at greater risk such as being diabetic, these are the options they have:

· Remain working with appropriate accommodation.

· If no accommodation available, stay at home and be covered by the Employment Standards Amendment Act (Infectious Disease Emergencies), 2020

At this time, March 20, 2020, in order to be covered by the Job Protection legislation you must have been directed by either your family doctor or Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-000), that given your medical condition, you should be self-isolating. You are NOT required to provide a Dr’s note.

Employment Insurance and the Emergency Care Benefit

The Federal Government has announced the following changes to EI:

· The one-week waiting period for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits is waived for a minimum of six months for workers in imposed quarantine, or those who have been directed to self-isolate. This would include those who are directed by their Dr. or Telehealth to self isolate due to an underlying medical condition that puts them at risk.

· The medical certificate requirement to access EI sickness benefits is also waived.

· Two new programs will be created for individuals who do not qualify for EI and do not have access to paid sick leave:

  1. Emergency Care benefit
  2. COVID-19 Emergency Support Benefit

· The Emergency Care Benefit will provide up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks, to individuals who must stay home because of COVID-19. Workers, including self-employed Canadians, who fall ill, are placed in quarantine, self-isolate, or have to take care of a family member infected with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits, will be eligible.

· Working parents who must stay at home without pay because of a sick child or need additional care because of school closures are also eligible, whether they are eligible for EI benefits or not.

· The COVID-19 Emergency Support Benefit will provide support to individuals who lose their job and are not eligible for EI, including self-employed Canadians. Additional details to follow.

The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work

As a worker in Ontario, you have the legal right to refuse unsafe work, according to Section 43(3) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, when you believe that any equipment, workplace condition or contravention of the OHS act is likely to endanger you or another person’s health and safety.

Please note this section does not apply to certain workers and some circumstances which are listed in Section 43(1) and (2) of the OHS act.

Here’s how you can refuse unsafe work:

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