Can employees refuse to work because of the pandemic?
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YES! Under certain circumstances your employee may have the right to refuse work.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives a worker the right to refuse work that he or she believes is unsafe to himself/herself or another worker. A worker who believes that he or she is endangered by workplace violence may also refuse work.
Take a read of our article below to get tips on how to avoid potential work refusals.
9 suggestions to help avoid work refusals
One of the consequences of working in an essential industry during a time of pandemic is a heightened awareness of risk. It's only human to be concerned for yourself and for others. Could my customer or my co-worker be an asymptomatic transmitter? Am I putting my family at risk?
Employers have an obligation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take reasonable care to maintain a safe and healthy workplace at all times, including during a pandemic. At the same time, workers have the right to refuse work if they believe it is likely to endanger themselves or other workers. This right is a pillar of our prevention system.
How COVID-19 fears could spark a refusal
Mathews Dinsdale and Clark LLP has identified several situations involving COVID-19 that could trigger a work refusal:
- a confirmed or presumptive case of COVID-19 in the workplace
- a confirmed case of COVID-19 in an employee's immediate family or other close contact
- the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 from contractors, customers or clients
- depending on the nature of the workplace or the people it serves
- concerns from employees who are particularly vulnerable (over age 65, compromised immune system, underlying medical condition) not wishing to report to work
- employee concerns over workplace practices and control methods, including personal protective equipment, or
- employees with a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19 by travelling to or attending work*