Communicable Disease Policies

Shawnee Love   •   July 5, 2021

The Covid-19 state of emergency is over in BC, and we thought it might help to share some information about what that means for employers in BC.

Even though you no longer need a COVID plan published on your website, employers still need to be conscious of the health and safety risks associated with their workplaces. Chances are you already had good protocols for handling dangerous chemicals, fall protection, or work alone, and those are still as important as ever. In addition, effective July 1, 2021, all BC employers now need a communicable diseases plan.

Truthfully, communicable disease protocols are not anything new to healthcare (or the food service industry where transmission of Hep A or Hep B could shut a restaurant down), but these types of policies are definitely new for most employers.

In as simple form as possible, this is just a set of rules around people not being at work if they are sick. Long overdue if you ask me, as cold and flu season used to feel like a game of dodgeball trying to avoid all those coughing, sneezing, sniffling people who claimed they “weren’t that sick” or my personal favourite “not contagious anymore”.

For most of the clients we work with, a communicable disease protocol might involve the following:

  • Daily health checks: I remain a big fan of these. Have a fever, cough, sneezing (not due to allergies), vomiting, diarrhea, etc. stay home and notify your manager. Honestly, asking people to stay home when sick seems perfectly reasonable to me as I have seen flu level workplaces in the past. The 3 days paid sick time offered in BC via Worksafe means employees have some support during their recovery.
  • Hand hygiene: Handwashing remains a priority, thank goodness! Employers please keep those handwashing facilities and signs about how to wash hands well. Reminders to wash hands upon arrival, before and after eating, and after using the washroom are helpful too (not only for communicable diseases, but just so the rest of us won’t be grossed out).
  • Cleaning: Keep up the routine thorough cleaning of workplaces with careful attention on the shared items like copiers, fridges, and coffee makers. Yay, the communal coffee pot is back.
  • Occupancy: Although signage on how many can be in a room is not critical anymore, employers still need to give thought to how many people should be in the area for ease of movement, air quality, temperature, etc.
  • Vaccines: Although few workplaces may require staff to be vaccinated, employers are expected to give employees time off to get vaccinated.

Regarding masks, which are recommended but no longer required, some employers are proceeding cautiously and keeping masks in place, to give customers peace of mind when rejoining social environments.

Finally, although not due to covid, you also need to have an anti bullying policy in place, and we recommend a remote work policy and a dispute resolution policy as well. I mention these here, because conflicts and complaints have escalated throughout covid as the stress and fear grew as has telecommuting. Providing tools so employees know what to do before something occurs helps prevent confusion as well as serious escalations.

If you need your workplace policies and practices updated, we are here to help.