The first case of COVID-19 has arrived in Niagara, and the disease means a degree of uncertainty and upheaval for Niagara’s business community. The GNCC is dedicated to providing assistance and information to businesses.
There will be more information and updates in the coming days and weeks. For now, here are some tips to help your business through this period.
- Plan for staff absences. Now is a good time to look over succession plans and to decide how the responsibilities of any member of your team will be reallocated if that team member falls ill. Cross-train staff where possible.
- Encourage sick employees to stay home. Any employee who shows up to the workplace with acute respiratory symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) should be isolated and sent home without delay. Remind your employees of respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene. Provide hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes for the workplace.
- Move in-person meetings to teleconferencing options. The GNCC can assist in finding these services for you if needed. Contact us for help.
- Review your work-from-home options, if possible. Employees that may have been exposed should be encouraged to work remotely for a 14-day self-isolation period if your business operations permit it.
- Be mindful of employee privacy, but encourage your employees to inform you if they have recently travelled or are about to travel, especially to affected areas; if they are undergoing testing for COVID-19 or if someone in their household is sick or has been tested for COVID-19; or if they are at higher risk for adverse health complications or live with someone at higher risk.
- Consider cancelling public events, and be aware that if you choose not to, legislation may be introduced that bans them outright. The GNCC will endeavour to keep you informed of legislative changes that may affect your business.
- Review your obligations to your employees under the Employment Standards Act. This guide can help you find relevant legislation and guidelines.
- Refusal to work must be handled on a case-by-case basis. Consider the employee’s role, their amount of contact with the public, their required travel, whether they are at higher risk for health complications, or whether they are likely to expose someone with higher risk for health complications. Review the Employment Standards Act to understand your obligations. If in doubt, reaching out to an employment lawyer and/or human resources professional is a good idea. The GNCC can put you in touch with these resources.
- For retail and other customer-facing businesses, decreased customer volume is very likely. Explore delivery services and e-commerce options. Contact delivery companies who you may be able to contract with to deliver your products and e-commerce solutions providers to allow your customers to continue to shop with you. The GNCC can help locate providers if you need assistance setting up or expanding these programs for your business.Contact us for help.
- Consider relaxing your sick-note requirement policies, if you have them. People who do not need medical attention but require sick notes for employers will place undue strain on our healthcare resources.
- If you feel unable to relax your sick-note policy, be aware that government legislation at the federal or provincial level may require you to do this anyway. Stay aware of regulatory changes. The GNCC will post updates as they happen.
- Develop a Crisis Communications Plan. We have provided a template for you.
- Be prepared for financial impact and decreased revenue. Develop a Business Continuity & Recovery Plan. We have a template for this as well. Others can be found at the BDC’s website.
- Stay informed. Consult the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Health, and Niagara Region Public Health as your primary sources. The GNCC will post news and information relevant and useful to businesses on its site.
- Review the terms of your insurance policy for business interruptions.
- If you lease or own space in a shared building, establish a communications policy with property management and/or other tenants and occupants to report on cases of sick employees and ensure that the risk of cross-infection is minimized.
The GNCC is dedicated to assisting your business and keeping you informed. Please contact us and let us know how the Chamber can help you, and check back for updates.