COVID-19 Contact-tracing

What if You’re not informed about a COVID-19 Exposure?

Does Your Employer Have To Tell You About A COVID-19 Exposure?

It’s a question that’s buzzing around the internet today. A question that has ethical, as well as legal implications. How quickly does an employer need to inform you that someone in the office may have COVID-19, and what if they choose not to tell you? What are your rights?

Is contact tracing really that important?

With some companies, contact tracing is easy. You work with a small group of people, so if someone becomes infected, then you can easily identify it. In larger companies, there is a growing mistrust when an employer doesn’t communicate in a timely fashion that someone may have been exposed to a co-worker who tested positive. So the question is, What obligation does the employer have to disclose the fact that someone in the company has become infected?  Legally, employers have an obligation, as noted by Howard Levitt from the Toronto Law Firm of LSCS Law.

“Employers need not ensure perfection, but are legally required to “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances” for the protection of their employees.  (as well as other members of the public)

An employer has the obligation to quickly inform employees who they believe could have come into contact with someone who was infected. They must also insist on employee testing and remaining absent from the workplace until they have a negative test. Failing to do so leaves the employer liable for negligence should that employee develop COVID-19 because they weren’t informed. It also creates potential liability under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and other public health legislation.”

– Howard Levitt, Senior Partner, LSCS Law, Toronto ON

The right action steps

It’s one thing to inform employees of a possible exposure, but what if an employer has no idea who to inform? Some companies are set up with an acceptable method of contact tracing, but many are not. For the business that has a manual system, or has not set up a system at all within the company, it may be impossible for the employer to know who has come into contact with the infected person in the company.

Using an automated health tracker and contact tracing system can help supervisors:

  • divide the company into work groups so employees identify who they work with daily
  • employees log fill out health assessment everyday and choose the work group they’re working with
  • insist that everyone follow the same rules and answer the health questions
  • create reports that can trace who was working within a group that has been exposed
  • easily identify the people affected and send an alert to them immediately

The opportunity to build trust with a workforce, let alone the opportunity to possibly avoid the legalities of not informing staff in a timely fashion, is worth the effort on the part of the employer to create an easy, automated contact-tracing system.

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