In the newest episode of The HR Files, I discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has really changed the landscape for employers when it comes to managing attendance at work. Surprisingly, the changes offer employers an opportunity to revisit and update their Attendance Management Policies and take advantage of some rules that they may be unaware of.
Some employers experience problems with workers who regularly call in sick on Friday and/or Mondays particularly when there’s a long weekend involved. Prior to the pandemic, these employers were left with little opportunity to challenge this illness claim, leading to high absenteeism and frustration.
Now, as a result of the pandemic and all of the public health protocols, an Employee who calls in sick can legitimately be required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test, even if they have been fully vaccinated, unless the employee is able to demonstrate that the reason they are taking time off work is not related to COVID symptoms. This will include the requirement to self-isolate until test results are available, which will be unpaid time off (although it is considered protected leave under the Employment Standards Act). This additional unpaid time off, plus the need to be tested, are proving to be deterrents to the sick calls.
When an employee claims they must miss work because of daycare or eldercare issues, employers have the right to require “evidence that is reasonable in the circumstance”. For example, if a child was ill and they had to take time off work, you can ask for some type of proof that supports their claim. This could include the appointment request with the physician and text or email conversations with persons that they are trying to arrange care with (i.e., grandparent, neighbour, etc.). If they claim they had a household emergency or flat tire, you can ask for proof of repairs such as the invoice from the auto mechanic. These requests to provide supporting documentation are not considered violations of privacy, as the Employment Standards Act clearly states that the employer has the right to “reasonable proof”.
The final topic I want to discuss today is work refusals. In our “post-pandemic” era, employees are using the COVID protocols to refuse work. The best approach is to launch a work refusal complaint with the Ministry of Labour. The MOL will inspect your workplace and once the MOL determines that no COVID-related safety issues are present, employees no longer have the right to refuse work that falls within those guidelines.
For help with your Attendance Management issues please reach out to us