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February 2020 Newsletter
In This Issue
  • Thanks for Joining Us!
  • What Should Employers Do About Coronavirus?
  • Workplace Hygiene
  • Infographic: Prevent the Spread
  • A Note About Hand Sanitizer
  • Calling In Sick: It's The RIght Thing To Do
  • Can an Employee Stay Home From Work If They Or A Family Member Has Any Flu-Like Symptoms?
  • Quick Reference: Coronavirus and the Workplace - Tips for Employers
  • Quick Reference: Office Kitchen Cleanliness and Shared Responsibilities
  • Sick Leave Snapshot: How Does Your Organization Compare?
  • Coach's Corner: Coronavirus and Employer Responsibilities 
February 2020
Volume 7, Number 2
Available in ebook and soft cover at Wendy Ellen Inc.

Available for Kindle on Amazon

Thanks for Joining Us!

February is here and winter is moving along. This is the cold and flu season, and of course this year the Coronavirus is on top of everyone's minds. 

This month we decided to focus on preparing for the virus as well as information on workplace hygiene, calling in sick, even kitchen etiquette.

Keep reading for more learning!

What Should Employers Do About Coronavirus?
As of February 21, 2020 the Public Health Agency of Canada is reporting that  9 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 as low for Canada. Public health risk is continually reassessed as new information becomes available.

Nevertheless, Canadians are being urged to remain vigilant against infection, with medical experts reminding the public we're still in the throes of flu season and that good hygiene is advised -- wash hands frequently and cough and sneeze into tissue or your upper sleeve.

Disaster management expert Amin Mawani says workers and managers alike should take this time to combat misinformation, repeat hygiene tips, be clear on sick leave policies and prepare for the possibility of mass absenteeism.

Workplace Hygiene
All workplace environments need to be hygienic and safe for both employees and visitors. This applies to all, not just workplaces, involved in handling food and personal products. A solid workplace hygiene policy is the best way to ensure employees maintain a clean workplace.

Each workplace will require different hygiene requirements. Certain tasks, or industries may also create risks which require additional protection than those discussed below. However, below are some key areas all workplaces should consider for their workplace hygiene policy.

Why is hygiene important in the workplace?

Hygiene is important in the workplace because it contributes to a healthy workforce. A healthy workforce is happier and more productive. A healthy workplace also means workers take less sick leave which will reduce the huge cost that sick leave places on small business.

How do you maintain hygiene in the workplace? 

Implement a hygiene policy
Provide staff with a written hygiene policy. Inform them of your intentions and expectations of a clean workplace. This helps communicate to staff that you also take workplace hygiene seriously.

Provide a clean bathroom
It is critical for a hygienic workplace to have a clean bathroom. Also ensure that the bathroom is well stocked with soap, toilet paper and hand towels.

Provide clean wipes, sanitizer and tissues
Provide items such as these to help your staff maintain a clean and hygienic workspace. Employees are more likely to use such items if they are readily available.

Regular cleaning
Make sure your workplace is regularly cleaned. This helps prevent the spread of infection, and a cleaned workplace also maintains morale and a sense of professionalism.

Make provision for each employee to clean and maintain their own workstation or work areas.
The hygiene policy could include regular cleaning of surfaces with disinfectant. This would result in a drastic reduction of infection and illness. Policies typically also include keeping the area tidy and free of clutter.
Click on the Infographic below for a larger version

A Note About Hand Sanitizer

While hand sanitizer may seem like an effective on-the-go solution for ridding yourself of germs, some studies do indicate that using it too frequently can do more harm than good. Actually, itís because hand sanitizer is so effective at killing bacteria that itís not ideal for everyday use. One 2018 study published in the journal Environment International found that itís just as successful at spurring the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

So, what's the average person to do? How can we protect ourselves? Use hand sanitizer, or not?

According to Public Health Canada, the one of the best way to prevent respiratory and other illnesses is to use good hand hygiene measures, which includes frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available

Public Health Canada  and Infection Prevention and Control Canada further advise that  if hands are not visibly dirty or if you do not have access to water, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

*Place enough alcohol-based hand rub into the cupped palm of one hand sufficient to wet both hands completely
* Rub the liquid into the palms, backs of hands, between fingers and under nails.

Calling In Sick: It's The Right Thing To Do
You wake up feeling that tickle in your throat and a bit achy, but you decide to tough it out. You rationalize the numerous reasons you canít call in sick. Youíve got a big report. Youíve got a deadline. Or a big project to finish. So you go in. But you spend the day tired, cranky, miserable and completely unproductive. On top of that, you are generally the most contagious during the first one to three days of your cold symptoms.

Youíve had an unproductive day and youíve potentially infected your fellow coworkers. The only thing worse than having one person under the weather is having an office filled with them.

A recent poll on Monster Canadaís website in November found that 1 in 6 Canadians go to work no matter their symptom severity. While on the other end of the spectrum, 1 in 5 says they stay home no matter what Ė taking care of themselves and ultimately their coworkers too.

And only 53.4 per cent of Canadians only take a sick day if their symptoms are severe, potentially spreading their illness to their coworkers!

But hereís what you should do:  Seriously, donít come to work if you are sick.

Employers should make their position on sick time and sick days very clear to employees. Make sure your employees know what they are allotted in terms of sick time. Be understanding and non-judgemental when employees call in sick. Donít press for details, if not needed, and let the employee know that their health is very important to the success of your business.
Can an Employee Stay Home From Work If They Or A Family Member Has Any Flu-Like Symptoms? 
Employment agreements or policies may provide an employee with a contractual entitlement to sick days or personal days, which they can exercise if they develop symptoms associated with Coronavirus, or other flu-like symptoms. The Alberta Employment Standards Code (ďESCĒ) also provides employees with up to 5 days of unpaid personal and family responsibility leave in each calendar year for the health benefit of themselves or a family member. As a result, employees experiencing flu-like symptoms may use these sick days to seek medical attention, convalesce, or provide care for an affected family member.

Employers have many questions like these; check out this bulletin by Field Law for more answers.
Quick Reference: Coronavirus and the Workplace - Tips for Employers 
Below are some tips for employers to prepare for a possible coronavirus pandemic:

Alert employees as to the symptoms and risks associated with the coronavirus, as well as prevention measures. This information is readily available from official health sources, including the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Encourage employees to wash their hands prior to commencing work, after sneezing and coughing, and after they touch objects that may have been in contact with people exhibiting flu-like symptoms.

Encourage employees not to touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus and to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Provide hand sanitizers (and even respiratory masks), if and when appropriate.

Review cleaning procedures in place to regularly disinfect equipment, work stations and the workplace generally.

Educate yourself and your employees. The Government of Alberta has created a detailed OHS bulletin that provides a wealth of information about coronavirus as well as practical links and resources.


Click on the image below for a link to a larger online version that you can download.
Quick Reference: Office Kitchen Cleanliness and Shared Responsibilities
Kitchens are a breeding ground for germs if not kept in check. Everyone needs to work together to ensure that shared kitchen space remains as clean as possible, especially during cold and flu season. With fears about coronavirus, especially, a lack of respect for others who share an office kitchen can carry over to create conflict among employees on the job.

Below are a few reminders for everyone:

Keep it clean. Remember that you are one of many, and if everyone left a little mess, you'd wind up with something you'd never want anyone to face. Take an extra step or two and put your trash in the garbage can, wipe up any spills, and remove whatever you brought in that day. You wouldn't appreciate someone else's sticky mess, so don't assume it's okay to leave one for others.

Leave appliances as you found them or better than you found them. When you use an office appliance such as a toaster or microwave, check it afterwards and make sure you didn't leave crumbs or splatters. Don't forget refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot or kettle handles; messes and germs live here as well.

If you spill something, clean it up. Don't forget to test it after you wipe it clean. If there is any sticky or slimy residue, clean it again. Wipe down kitchen counters, sinks, cutting boards, fridge handles, etc.

Clean as you see the need.
When you see something out of place in the kitchen or the trash can overflowing, do something about it. Most of the time, you can do it yourself. If your company has a cleaning crew or maintenance staff, call and request someone to take out the trash.

It's always a good idea to post some rules. If there isn't already a list of rules posted on the office kitchen wall, consider making one. Before you post it, ask for input from employees; they may have suggestions you haven't even thought of.

Adapted from The Spruce

A Quick Snap Shot of Sick Leave in Canada:
How Does Your Organization Compare?
Coach's Corner: Coronavirus and Employer Responsibiilties 

Employers are responsible for protecting the health and safety of their employees while at work.

Under Part II of the Canadian Labour Code:

Employers are responsible for protecting the health and safety of employees at work. If there is a risk of exposure to coronavirus for employees while working, employers must:
  • identify
  • assess the risk, and
  • implement proper controls through their Hazard Prevention Program
If the employer requires personal protective equipment, they must provide training and procedures to employees. Employees must comply with the employer's procedures.

Employees have 3 basic rights:
  • the right to know
  • the right to participate, and
  • the right to refuse dangerous work
*Definition of danger: "any hazard, condition or activity that could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person exposed to it before the hazard or condition can be corrected or the activity altered."

One of the most important things employers can do is educate workers on the signs and symptoms of coronavirus, and the precautions that can be taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Identify the nearest medical facility that workers can attend if they require medical attention. Accommodate medical conditions to the point of undue hardship by allowing workers time away from work to attend medical appointments and to recover. Employer policies or procedures may already provide for this.
Creating effective hygiene and hazard policies requires professional expertise.

Contact Wendy Ellen Inc. for all your HR needs today!
About Wendy Ellen Inc.
Wendy Ellen Inc. specializes in providing human resource and benefits management skills to small to mid-sized companies on an as-needed basis. From recruitment, Human Resource policy development and legislative compliance, employee retention and engagement, individual advisor/coaching, succession planning to employee development and performance, Wendy Ellen Inc. will help you protect your most valuable resource, your people.
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