The spread of covid-19 has many people worried about their health and safety. But others are also concerned about their ability to travel, work and make money. Companies are asking employees to be extra cautious, even enforcing quarantines.
If your employer requests you to stay away from work, do they still have to pay you?
According to Toronto-based labour lawyer Howard Levitt at Levitt LLP, if a company believes that an individual poses a risk to the workplace population, for example by traveling to a country with a high incidence of covid-19 cases, they can request the employee to self-quarantine upon returning, but they should pay the employee.
“My view is if the company forces you to stay home and doesn’t pay you that would be a constructive dismissal. You can at the very least sue them for the 14 days salary. They can refuse to pay you, but then you can sue them. So, they either have to put you on a sick leave plan, or they have to pay you,” Levitt says.
You have the right to sue in small claims court for any money you lost because your employer forced you to stay home. Levitt says employees should be responsible too. They are not obligated to tell their employer where they are going, but in the current environment, where many are concerned for their health and safety, it would be wise to tell your employer if you are travelling to an area with known cases.
“I think if you don’t, you’re going to have a very unhappy employer. Because they are going to think you pulled one over on them because you weren’t transparent. I would advise telling your employer,” Levitt says.
According to Cissy Pau, principal consultant with Clear HR consulting, an employer’s first priority is to make sure workers are safe.
“You need to ensure employees are aware that, if they have symptoms, they need to inform their employer so corrective action can be taken,” Pau says. If workers purposely travel to an area with confirmed cases of coronavirus, they should be prepared to self-quarantine without pay when they get back, she adds.
Employers are certainly taking more interest in their employees’ travel plans. So, even though what you do in your private life is personal, given the uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic, it will help your relationship with your boss—and, possibly your career in the long-term, to share your travel plans.