Covid-19 (Coronavirus): What Employers Need to Know


Well, it’s been a scary week! What once felt so distant, on another continent even, is now in our own backyard. I have spent most of the last few days helping clients prepare for impact. We need to start thinking about how to protect our people, our operations and our business more than we ever have before. As a result, I thought I would share the process that I first developed back in the H1N1 days (wow, I feel old!). So, here we go:

Plan Early

The worst thing you can do is think “that will never happen here” or “we’ll cross that road when we come to it”. Planning is key. Get on the phone with your management team and vet worst case scenarios and how to prepare for them. Think about your people, your operation and your customers and how this virus or the social impact of this virus could impact your business.

Minimize Contact

Terms like “social distancing” and “self-isolation” are new terms for most of us although they kind of sound like an introvert’s dream, don’t you agree?
However, they are new strategies to protect ourselves and those around us. In your business, perhaps it’s eliminating travel, face to face meetings, and employee events. Or, maybe it’s having everyone work from home (if possible). If your employees need to be onsite, how can we keep distance from others or create a more sanitary environment?

Guidelines for Absences

Consistency and knowledge are going to be key. Sit down and establish guidelines to determine when employees will stay home (ie: self-isolated), if/how you are going to pay them, and when/how they will reintegrate back into your workplace. Now is also the time to identify backup resources for essential roles in your organization.
Be sure to ask yourself: what am I doing to keep employees safe and what will happen if an employee tests positive?

Employee Pay

Again, consistency will be key so you will want to determine under which circumstances you will pay employees and under which you will not. The Canadian Government has just removed the 1 week waiting period for EI so that may be part of your strategy. If it is, check out the Supplementary Unemployment Benefit (SUB) program. Employers registered in this program can “top up” employee wages without the earnings counting against an employee’s EI income. If you are already registered, you will want to include this as a cost reducing strategy. If you are not registered, you may want to consider. Note: I do not know how long it takes to become approved.

Employee Communication

Guess what? People are scared. Not just about their health but things like: what happens if they close schools? What happens if I can’t work? How can I afford it? How will I deal with a quarantine? Will my parents survive this type of infection? There are so many worries but, as employers, we can alleviate some of these worries simply by showing we are prepared. Communicate guidelines and tell employees what will happen and how you are going to support them through this time.

Supplier/Customer Communication

Don’t forget those outside of your organization. Be sure to open communication lines with suppliers and key customers and establish backup contacts in case point people are absent. Ensure you identify possible supply, distribution and product/service demand impacts on your operation and communicate how you will handle it. Like employees, the unknown can be scary for customers as well.

We are in this together and the only way to thrive through these trying times is to plan, communicate and protect one another. Stay healthy, stay safe!

If you would like a free copy of uptreeHR’s Pandemic Checklist, please email

Sarah Mullins is the founder and CEO of uptreeHR, an outsourced Human Resource department for small to medium sized businesses. Sarah and her team are based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

To book a complimentary 30-minute consult with Sarah, click here.


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