What Employees Should Know about the Coronavirus Outbreak

Employment and Labour

With the current novel Coronavirus outbreak and preventative measures being put in place, employees may find themselves in unfamiliar positions.  The following are some tips to help you deal with what might come your way.

Safe Work Environment

Your employer has an obligation to provide you with a safe working environment.  This may include limiting visitors to the workplace and/or asking employees to work from home where possible.  Additionally, your employer may ask certain employees to stay home if they exhibit symptoms and/or are subject to a quarantine request.

Quarantine or Self-Isolation

A large number of individuals, including those who have travelled outside of the country, are being asked to quarantine for two weeks.  The government is currently recommending this quarantine period, and some employers are asking their employees to self-isolate. 

There are a number of factors to consider if you are in quarantine or being asked to self-isolate without pay.  Under normal circumstances, your employer asking you to stay away from work for a period of time would be considered constructive dismissal.  However, in the current circumstances, this request/order would likely be seen as reasonable, particularly in light of your employer’s obligation to ensure a safe workplace for its other employees.  You should start by reviewing your employment contract if you have one, and any company policies, regarding temporary lay offs, sick leave, and/or personal days.  You can then talk to your employer about whether there are any options for you to receive pay through sick leave or other entitlement, or creative ways for you to work from home. 

If you are in quarantine without pay, you will be able to collect Employment Insurance (“EI”) benefits as outlined below.


Unfortunately, there are likely going to be industries that will be forced to lay off or terminate employees as a result of the downturn in business.  If you are one of these employees, you are entitled to working notice, or severance pay, in accordance with your employment contract, or the Employment Standards Act if you do not have a contract.  The exception would be if you have an employment contract that specifically provides for being laid off.  However, even with a contract that provides for lay offs, the maximum length of lay off period is 13 weeks over a 20 week period, after which you will be entitled to severance pay regardless.

Employment Insurance

The government has announced specific assistance for workers who must go into quarantine as a result of the Coronavirus.  The government is waiving the one week waiting period or EI benefits.  As a result, if you are in isolation for two weeks, you can receive EI benefits for that entire time period.  In addition, the government has waived the requirement to provide a doctor’s note for individuals who undergo quarantine.

Take Away

The current situation, as everyone takes measures to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, is far from business as usual.  You should be aware of your rights as an employee through this time.  If you need assistance in dealing with your employment situation, Lindsay Kenny employment lawyers are here to assist you. 

Employment Law Group
Lindsay Kenney LLP – Langley Office