COVID-19: Can an employee refuse to come into work?

While the global coronavirus pandemic rages on, employers face increasing uncertainty in regards to policy, employee contracts, and workplace rules

COVID-19: Can an employee refuse to come into work?

While the global coronavirus pandemic rages on, employers face increasing uncertainty in regards to policy, employee contracts, and workplace rules.

As such, it’s understandable that many employees are nervous about heading into work every day – especially since world leaders seem to be urging self-isolation where possible.

We caught up with Michael Horvat, partner at Aird & Berlis and speaker at HRD’s upcoming online event Coronavirus: Keeping the Business Running. He revealed whether or not an employee can simply refuse to go into work.

“This is clearly an area of employment law which is now in a state of flux, given the current circumstances,” prefaced Horvat.

Horvat explained that normal rules do still apply – and regular processes for work refusals should be followed. Work refusals can arise if an employee has legitimate concerns for their safety, with respect to entering their workplace. 

“However,” added Horvat, “If the employee is not engaging in a work refusal, and is just reticent to come in to work, then perhaps that employee could look at working from home.”

Another option could be that the employee is held out of work at home on leave.

“However if on leave, in that case, they’re not eligible for pay protection from their employer,” Horvat told HRD.

“There are potentially other options for the employee based on ongoing revisions to the Employment Insurance Act – which could provide for compensation for the employee during that period of absence.”

As coronavirus continues to spread, employers are left with a myriad of questions and concerns. At HRD, we’re committed to providing you with the most up-to-date information on all corona-inspired organizational concerns.

To hear more from Horvat, and other leading employment specialists, sign up to HRD’s upcoming online event Coronavirus: Keeping the Business Running.

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