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Covid-19 Security Q&A

This pandemic brings a lot of stress and anxiety to everyone, and it’s important at times like this that we be patient and respect one another. We also need to be sure that we’re being vigilant and following the safety protocols that are set out so we can look after ourselves and each other both at home and in the workplace.

How do I go on a Leave of Absence? Will my job be there when I return?

Employees are always able to request a leave of absence from their employer in accordance with their Collective Agreement. There is currently no legislation in Manitoba that requires employers to grant leave of absence requests in relation to COVID-19, although this may change as many other provinces have passed recent legislation to provide for such leaves.

If your employer grants you a leave of absence they would be required to return you to work after the expiry of the leave, unless there are valid business reasons not to. For example, a legitimate layoff done in accordance with the collective agreement.

Can I refuse to work even if I don’t have any risk factors or childcare issues?

Employees can only refuse to work if the employee has a reasonable belief that the work they have to perform is dangerous or that the workplace itself constitutes a danger to the employee’s health and safety.

If you are worried or anxious about getting the virus you may want to request an unpaid leave of absence in accordance with your collective agreement. You can also see your doctor about your concerns and follow any recommendations made. The Employer’s duty to accommodate still exists during the pandemic.

Can I refuse unsafe work?

Yes, under the Workplace Safety and Health Act and/or your collective agreement, all employees have the right to refuse work that they reasonably believe constitutes a danger to their safety and health. The right to refuse dangerous work is not to be taken lightly and must be done in accordance with the process set out in the legislation or your collective agreement.

In Manitoba, the process for refusing dangerous work is a follows:

  1. Employees must report the work refusal to the employer and explain why they believe the work is dangerous. The employer and the employee then work together to assess the risk and resolve the concern.
  2. If the employer and employee are unable to agree on a resolution, an employee representative from the safety and health committee, or another employee can be brought in to help assess the situation and attempt to resolve the issue.
  3. If the situation cannot be resolved and the worker still feels the work is dangerous for them to perform, Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) is to be contacted to determine whether or not the work is unsafe. An investigation will be initiated and a decision will be made.

Dangerous work is generally defined as follows and may be applied differently to each individual employee:

  • a hazard that is unusual to the normal working conditions or tasks;
  • a hazard that is increased due to the health or physical condition of the employee;
  • a hazard that is likely to result in serious injury or illness; and reasonable controls have not been put in place to reduce or eliminate the hazard.

Employees generally will get paid during the refusal process, unless WSH grants an exception. Employees may also be assigned other tasks, if appropriate, during the refusal process.

Issues to consider in light of COVID-19 & the right to refuse:

  • Has someone in the workplace been confirmed to have the virus or was very likely exposed to the virus?
  • Is it likely that the workplace is a known or high-risk source of the virus?
  • Is the refusing employee likely to be exposed to the virus while performing the work?
  • Does the employee have a pre-existing medical condition that places them at an increased risk of serious illness should they be exposed to the virus?
  • Does the employee have access to adequate hand-washing or sanitation facilities and personal protective equipment?
  • Has the employee been properly trained on all safety precautions?
  • Has the employer enforced social distancing and provided a sanitized workplace?

Do I qualify for CERB or EI?

CERB applies to all Canadians who have ceased working due to COVID-19, whether you are eligible for EI or not. To qualify, employees must have had $5000 in employment income or maternity/parental leave benefits in the 12 months preceding their application for the CERB.

Applications for CERB will begin April 6, 2020. You can apply online with your CRA account or over the phone with an automated phone service.

If you are eligible for the CERB, you can expect a single payment of $2,000 for a 4-week period. If your situation continues, you can re-apply for a payment for multiple 4-week periods, to a maximum of 16 weeks (4 periods). You should expect to see your payment within 3-10 business days of submitting your application.

CERB will replace EI for a 4-month period. After this period, employees that continue to be out of work or on sick leave will be switched over to EI.

Is my Employer required to provide me with protective masks and/or gloves?

Employers do have a legal obligation to take reasonable care to maintain a safe and healthy workplace under provincial safety and health legislation. That being said, what is deemed safe today may change tomorrow, so employers should be prepared to respond quickly to the changing health environment.

If you feel that your employer isn’t meeting their obligation to take reasonable care to maintain a safe and healthy workplace you may want to consider your right to refuse.

Will I get an extra pay increase as the pandemic continues?

There is no legal requirement for employers to increase pay for workers required to work during the pandemic. Some employers have chosen to do so, some have not.

The security sector has not added any increases to date due to the negotiated contracts in place with clients for service who are also affected by reduced hours of operation or closed during this pandemic.

Do I have to use the chemicals required by my employer to sanitize and clean even though they are making me sick?

The employers’ duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship continues throughout the pandemic. If your job involves the use of chemicals that are making you sick, you may want to see your doctor and request an accommodation. Accommodations may vary from the re-assignment of tasks to the removal from the workplace. If you aren’t able to work you will be eligible for sick leave as provided for in your collective agreement or the CERB.

Is there a limit to the number of persons (clients, contractors, coworkers or citizens) allowed on or in a site?

There is currently no limit on how many persons are allowed on or in a site at one time. Social distancing measures are still recommended but effective August 7, 2021 are no longer an enforceable rule.

Do I have to go to work if I am sick?

No, you should absolutely not go to work if you are sick.

Employers requiring employees to be at work when they are sick are endangering the safety and health of all other employees and customers, and are arguably in violation of provincial safety and health legislation. If this is happening in your workplace you need to report it to your union representative immediately.

Can I refuse to help or serve persons who are not social distancing?

Effective August 7, 2021, the province strongly recommends social distancing and mask wearing, but does not require it. If you encounter a person who makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, you still have the right to refuse dangerous work as long as you do so in accordance with provincial legislation and your collective agreement.

What do I do if a person (client, contractor, citizen etc.) does not practice social distancing and touches me, sneezes, coughs or spits at me?

You should immediately contact your employer and advise what has happened and then file a police report for assault as well as file a WCB claim as you do not know what will result from any of these actions.

If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact your Union Rep.

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