Where a worker has a reasonable basis or reason to believe that there is a dangerous condition in the workplace, or that their duties present a danger to their health and safety (which is not an inherent or normal condition of their work), the worker may be able to refuse to attend work or perform certain duties.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers can expect to see work refusals from employees based on:
- a confirmed or presumptive case of COVID-19 in the workplace;
- a confirmed case of COVID-19 in an employee’s immediate family or other close contact;
- the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 from contractors, customers or clients depending on the nature of the workplace or the people it serves;
- concerns from employees who are particularly vulnerable (over age 65, compromised immune system, underlying medial condition) not wishing to report to work; or
- employees with a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19 by travelling to or attending work.
Whether or not a work refusal based on the above or other grounds is reasonable is going to be highly dependant on the facts. Where a concern escalates to the level of a refusal by a worker, or group of workers, the employer must respond in accordance with occupational health and safety legislation, which response will include an investigation into the concerns and, if appropriate, adopting measures to eliminate or reduce the workplace danger.
In this report you will receive:
- What Canadian Employers Need to Know About the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Compliance Cheat Sheet: The Dangerous Work Refusal Dilemma
- COVID-19 Work Refusal: What Employers Need to Know About the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work
- Scorecard: Work Refusals for Fear of Getting an Infectious Illness
- Is Fear of Coronavirus Infection Valid Grounds for a Work Refusal?
- Answer to 10 Frequently Asked Questions
- Safety Talk: Your Right to Refuse Dangerous Work
- Model Policy on Work Refusal