Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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Due diligence is commonly addressed in the health and safety legislation under the "general duty clause" which places a duty on employers to take all reasonable precautions to prevent injuries or accidents in the workplace. The general duty clause also applies to all situations that are not addressed elsewhere in the occupational health and safety legislation.

For example, to reduce the effects of a pandemic, an employer may practice due diligence by

  • Encouraging good hygiene, including hand washing and providing hand sanitation stations
  • Ensuring cleanliness of surfaces where the virus may reside (door handles, elevator buttons, shared telephones, etc.)
  • Maintaining good ventilation
  • Having up-to-date sick or leave policies. Communicate the leave policies that will apply during a pandemic flu.
  • Encouraging employees to stay home when they are sick, or when they think they MIGHT be.
  • Allowing for employees to work at home, or create staggered shifts.
  • Having a policy where people with flu symptoms are not allowed access (includes workers, contractors, and vis) to the workplace

Can employees take time off?

Employment Standards Acts often state various ways in which an employee can take time off from work. In some provinces, these leaves include family care options that are typically for three to five days off of work. Whether this leave is paid or unpaid will depend on the collective agreements or contract terms for your workplace. Other options for longer terms are also explained. It is important to be aware of the various options that may apply, but it is also important to know that these rules can be different depending on where you live. For example in Ontario, in a declared emergency, employees are entitled to leave (without pay)

  • If an emergency has been declared under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act,
  • If an order to that person has been made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act
  • Because he or she is needed to provide care or assistance to a close family member
  • Because of such other reasons as made by the act and regulations..

More information is available at:

Leaves may also be possible through regular sick leave benefits, or through employment insurance.

It is very important that employers plan for a pandemic situation and let their staff know how absences from work will be managed.

Can employees refuse to work?

Employees have the right to refuse work they have a specific reason and believe performing the work is dangerous to their, or their coworkers, health and safety. This belief must be on reasonable grounds, and the employer is expected to attempt to resolve the situation.

It is unclear how this right will apply during a pandemic. An employee can exercise their right to refuse work. This refusal would trigger a resolution process and prevention measures should be implemented. Exactly how the refusal is resolved, however, will depend on the workplace and each separate situation.