CALGARY — Alberta’s decision to lift all remaining COVID-19 measures in mid-August could raise many questions by employees and employers.
The province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced on Wednesday that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 after August 16, will no longer need to enter isolation.
Labour Employment Lawyer with McLennan Ross LLP, Tom Ross, says this will be an evolving situation with many companies, depending on the work environment.
“There is still an ongoing obligation within the workplace to balance health and safety with other employee interests and rights, and that’s going to depend on a number of contextual factors,” he said.
“If you’re working in a health care facility with vulnerable people, different rules might be required even with lifted restrictions compared to other situations where people are already working in an isolated scenario where they’ve all been vaccinated and there is a low level of risk.”
At this time, Ross doesn’t believe employers can require an employee to work when they would have previously needed to isolate.
“There is still in place, in the employment standard code, protected unpaid leave for anyone who has COVID. That could change of course, but for now, I expect the government won’t immediately change that and that protects people’s right to stay off work,” he said.
It is possible that employees can refuse to isolate themselves and ask their employer to come into work anyway, but many companies might be hesitant.
“I think the reasonable expectation will be, although the government has changed the protocols, people are still probably erring on the side of safety,” Ross said.
Companies could take alternative measures to allow for an employee to work safely without isolating.