COVID-19: Employer Advice on Preparing for a Third Wave

Even after a year of restrictions and lockdowns and the hope offered by vaccines, the pandemic is far from over. Upsetting as the news of a third wave may be, it is critical that you prepare your business for what lies ahead.

Are we sure that a third wave has begun?

Health experts had long warned of the possibility of a third wave in April 2021 caused by spread of COVID-19 variants.

The number of new cases is rising again across provinces. While doctors in Ontario have clearly stated that a third wave has begun, infections rates are going up in British Columbia and Alberta as well.

The third wave is expected to be more severe. It is likely that we may experience another round of lockdowns across the country while we wait for vaccines to be widely administered.

On the upside, we’ve learnt how to adapt to changing circumstances and newer restrictions in the past year. It is true that everyone is exhausted. But we may also be more resilient than we’re giving ourselves credit for.

What more can I do in terms of health and safety measures in the workplace?

A major difference between the second and third waves is that now vaccinations have begun. As an employer, you should:

Create awareness about vaccines in the workplace

Just like the flu shot, the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory by law. Employers can’t push their employees to get vaccinated. What you can and should do is educate your workers on the benefits of the vaccine. You should recommend that those who can, should get the shot.

To help you do so, we’ve introduced a COVID-19 vaccine awareness e-learning course in BrightHR, an online HR management software for Peninsula clients. You can also download professional letter templates, through BrightHR, to encourage your employees to get the vaccine.

Consider giving your staff paid time off to get the vaccine shot

A paid vaccination leave is an investment into the health and wellness of your employees. It will encourage many workers, especially low-wage staff, to feel secure in leaving work for a couple hours to get the vaccine shot.

As an alternative, you could set up an on-site vaccination clinic at your workplace. However, you may not be able to do so while the vaccine supplies are limited. Once vaccines become widely available, a vaccination clinic at work may make it easier for your employees to get immunized.

Focus on mental health support for staff

After a year of uncertainty, repeated lockdowns and restrictions, most people are experiencing pandemic fatigue. It may be that your staff is struggling with poor mental health, anxiety, or depression due to the pandemic.

Educate your staff on the available mental health resources (Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia) and address reasonable concerns about health and safety.

You could also ask your workers for feedback on the health and safety measures in your workplace. Allowing them to voice their concerns or share their ideas will not just help reduce their anxieties, but also provide you with fresh perspectives on possible safety risks.

Continue following Public Health measures

Review the health and safety measures in your workplace and see if there are any areas for improvement.

Make sure to update your COVID-19 Safety Plan with the latest Public Health guidance. Ensure you have sufficient cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment in the workplace.

Provide health and safety training to your staff. It is critical that your employees observe safety measures, such as physical distancing, proper use of PPE and hand and respiratory hygiene. Employees who can work from home, should be encouraged to do so.

Have a response plan ready in case there is another lockdown and share it with your staff. Be prepared to adapt to another lockdown in a timely manner.

How can I prepare my business for a third wave?

Reassess what business strategies have worked for you in the past months and what haven’t. If you haven’t already, you should:

Take your business online

If you are in a line of work where it is feasible for you to also offer your products or services online, please do so. This will help you reach more customers and stay operational in the event of another lockdown.

The Ontario government’s e-business toolkit is a helpful guide on the subject. Google also offers a digital toolkit to help small businesses get online.

You can also get assistance through programs, such as the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund. It provides grants of up to $5,000 to eligible Canadian businesses to develop digital or e-commerce capability.

Ontario small businesses can also make use of the Digital Main Street Program. It is a digital guide and program to train small businesses on how to grow and run their business by adopting digital tools and technology. There are free courses you can access through this program.

Apply for available government grants

Make use of the available federal financial relief programs, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and Lockdown Support (both extended to June 5, 2021). Provincial governments, too, provide several grants that eligible businesses can apply for.

Do you need help creating health and safety policies for the pandemic?

Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR, health and safety, or employment advice you need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.

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