Canadian HR Reporter

June 2020 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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2 N E W S "I've been practising for over 25 years and I can't think of a situation that could spawn as much change as this." Figuring out what the new world of work will look like once the worst of the crisis has subsided is the next big step for HR. In planning for the "new normal," employers will be looking for answers when it comes to issues such as physical health and safety, mental health, staffing changes and remote work options. "Employers are being forced to make tough decisions that they don't want to make… There's definitely a 'How are we going to get people back to work?' in terms of return-to-work plans," says Ron Gauthier, CEO of Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) Manitoba in Winnipeg. Physical health and safety For those employers that do bring employees back to the physical workspace, it's going to be a complex recall process, with comprehensive health, safety and wellness considerations, says Louise Taylor Green, CEO of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto. "Organizations are going to have to look at the physical distancing boundaries within their offices. And if you had people in super tight cubicles prior to this, you may end up in a scenario where employees want some reassurances from a health and safety perspective that their physical work environment is in fact safe and that there's proper cleaning and infection control protocols in place and that the proper processes are going to be in place to determine or receive "Employers may be faced with accommodation requests, where they're going to need to consider individual circumstances when they're returning employees to work. And they're going to need to be sensitive to that because there's a human rights analysis there as well." It's important for employers to provide education and communication as to the changes that are being made and to the impact on the workplace to reassure employees who have fears, says Patrick Essiminy, a partner at Stikeman Elliott in Montreal. Because once things have calmed down and people are coming back to work in a more permanent fashion, employees may be more inclined to call a health and safety inspector. "Definitely, this should be top-of-mind for employers as they're wrapping up toward a return to work — they need to review all of the health and safety practices, they need to review all of the manuals… or put in place a specific policy to deal with the pandemic; they need to review the physical organization of the workplace, the way that employees access the workspace; they need to review the areas of breaks and lunches and locker rooms to make sure that they are thinking immediately about social distancing, about sanitization of the environment and they are very proactively communicating that to the workforce to reassure them and to avoid the employees being afraid to come into work and to avoid the complaints to health and safety authorities." In contemplating a return to the physical work environment, Manulife is taking its guidance from public health attestations from employees that they are well and not returning to work ill." When people return to the workplace, there's going to be heightened sensitivity with respect to workplace safety, especially until a vaccine is found, says Clarke. "I could see employers focusing on sanitizing and ensuring workplaces are cleaner than ever, social distancing, even within the workplace, putting in place policies, even if they're not mandated by the government… [and] restrictions on internal meetings, events like client events." There may also be situations where people say they don't feel safe to go back into the workplace. They may be in a compromised class and worried about catching the virus, he says. officials, says Kitchen. "We're also starting to have and will continue to have really regular conversations with our managers on the ground, so it's a two-way street and we'll be working [with] and listening to employees as we start to bring people back to work. We're expecting a pretty slow and steady pace as we move through because we also have to think about our role as corporate citizen in our major communities… but also we're really mindful of anxiety and stress that coming back to work physically might bring for some of our employees." As for social distancing in the office environment, that's something Manulife is already practising with essential workers, she says. " That's definitely something we're considering when we bring people back in, but we' ll take guidance from l o c a l g o v e r n m e n t s a n d e m p l o y e e sentiment, too." Mental health, trust considerations But the physical act of coming out of isolation back to work may raise mental health concerns for people, says Kitchen. " There's that stress, anxiety and concern for safety and well-being of yourself, your family and your customers as well," she says, citing Manulife's mental health benefit of $10,000 for employees and their dependants. Situations like this definitely create anxiety and stress, says Gauthier. "We have six million people on CERB [the Canada Emergency Response Benefit] and how many more are going to be on there? People are… worrying about CANADIANS LOOKING FOR REASSURANCES Workers will only be comfortable with the government lifting restrictions to allow them to return to work when: Source: Leger "We expect to have people back into work physically because that collaboration, that human connection will always be important." Kathryn Kitchen, Manulife Canada 29% there are no new cases for at least two weeks 25% there are only sporadic cases being discovered and there are no pressures on the health-care system 21% there is a COVID-19 vaccine 19% pressure on the health-care system has been reduced and it is able to manage a moderate flow of new cases over time Pandemic > pg. 1

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