As flu season bears down upon us, the H1N1 flu virus, or the “heiny” virus, (as some have dubbed it) is becoming a hot topic for employers and HR practitioners. My colleagues Sarah Pottle and Tom Groves gave a presentation on the topic to Nova Scotia employers on Friday. The presentation was at maximum capacity (100+ people) and we unfortunately had to start turning people away. So, for those who are interested but weren’t able to attend, here are a few highlights:
The most common questions employers and HR practitioners have are:
- When can an employee refuse to work (or attend at the workplace) because of H1N1?
- When can an employer ask an employee to stay away from the workplace because of H1N1?
There are a number of legislative provisions that play a role, but the main one is the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employees and employers both to take every precaution to ensure the health and safety of their fellow employees. The Act also allows employees to refuse to do any act that may endanger their health or safety.
The Act also holds that employers may reassign employees to other work and that the employees must accept this reassignment.
As such, there are complementary duties on both employers and employees—on employers to prevent contagious employees from attending at the workplace, and on employees who are contagious to absent themselves from the workplace.
In short, while it appears that H1N1 may be a major pain in the “heiny” there are relatively clear legislative provisions providing guidance for employers and HR practitioners. If you have H1N1, you are legally obligated to stay away from work!