Employers must ensure that screening procedures, requests to stay away from the workplace and other practices do not run afoul of applicable laws including human rights legislation. For example, human rights considerations may arise where an employer requires an employee who recently visited high-risk areas to remain off work, where the health authorities have issued no quarantine orders or directives at this time.
Moreover, in the absence of public health directives requiring certain individuals to undergo quarantine, there is an increased risk of employment litigation (e.g., grievances, human rights complaints, constructive or wrongful dismissal claims) if employees are sent home without pay or required to use up their vacation or other accrued lieu time.
However, individuals who have recently visited high-risk areas have a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. It is likely reasonable for you to ask employees who have recently returned from these areas to remain away from the workplace for a while until it can be safely determined that the employee does not have the virus. The same can be said if they were in close contact with family members who have been in a high-risk area.
Employers are entitled to expect that employees will continue to perform their work unless they have a legitimate reason why they cannot. If an employee is required to self-isolate for legitimate reasons, the employer is entitled to explore alternative options for how the employee may still continue to perform productive work for the employer (for example, telework). It is also not discriminatory to dismiss employees if there is no work for them to do because of the impacts of COVID-19.
If you require an employee to remain at home, you should consider continuing to pay the employee’s wages and benefits during that time as well as make work-from-home arrangements with them.