Human Resources during COVID-19
Important links for Manitoba pork producers during COVID-19:
- Government of Manitoba - COVID-19 webpage
- New border measures for land and air travel
- CPC - COVID-19 Financial Support Programs - Summary - August 2020
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada - Information and implication for the Agriculture and Agri-Food sector regarding Canada's COVID-19 response
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada - COVID-19 webpage
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada - COVID-19 workplace checklist
- Key Responsibilities of Employees, Managers and Employers
- Information on wage and other business subsidies
- Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program
Emergency On-Farm Support Fund
Oct 23, 2020: The federal government has introduced more funding to help farms with any additional costs for health and safety measures during COVID-19. The funding will help farmers with infrastructure improvements to living quarters and work stations, temporary or emergency housing (on- or off-farm), personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary stations, and any other measures to protect the health and safety of farm workers. Contributions under the program will be cost-shared 50:50 up to a maximum of $100,000. Click here for more details.
Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program (CEWS)
Sept 23, 2020: Manitoba pork producers are encouraged to investigate the federal CEWS program, to determine if they are eligible for support due to farm revenue drop during the pandemic. CEWS is retroactive to March and has been extended to summer 2021. It takes about an hour to complete the application form, but it is worth it if it generates real cash to offset the drop in hog and weanling prices. Click here for Manitoba Pork's step-by-step guide to CEWS and call Janice at 204-471-6530 if you need help to access the subsidy.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The Government of Manitoba has partnered with several organizations to develop and launch an online marketplace that will connect businesses in the province with non-medical grade PPE and other materials needed for businesses to operate during the pandemic. Click here for more information.
Tips for dealing with your staff during COVID-19
- Ask employees to voluntarily monitor their temperatures to help keep everyone safe on the farm. However, this should not be considered the only sign of illness. If they are experiencing any type of symptoms, it is best for them to stay home.
- Treat all employees with respect. Just like you, they are under a lot of stress.
- If they refuse to come to work, find out why. If they need to be home to look after children, they may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance (EI) if you lay them off (see below for wage information). Otherwise, they should be coming into work.
- If employees decide to participate in a group activity (such as a fishing or hunting trip with their friends, etc.), they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days without pay. Other than the family they live with, in their own home, they SHOULD NOT be socializing with anyone else. Self-isolation is usually NOT covered under Short-Term Disability plans.
- Make sure you take all precautions such as trying to have employees work within the distancing guidelines proposed by the government, even during breaks!
- Provide all employees with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to help them feel safe.
- Limit the number of service providers who come on to your farm. If service providers are absolutely needed, limit their contact with employees. Get them in and out as quickly as possible.
- Make sure you talk to your workers and establish a level of trust so that if your employees are feeling ill, they won’t worry about telling you.
- If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they must be isolated away from EVERYONE. Having designated housing in this example would be good planning.
- Consider staggering shift starts to prevent over-exposure to other workers.
- Ensure extra sanitation measures are implemented, such as cleaning barn door handles regularly (e.g. every 15 minutes), regular sanitation of changeroom, shower rooms, kitchen facilities, etc.
- If employees carpool to work, suggest they take separate vehicles. If this is not possible, try to limit each car to two people, with one driving and the other passenger sitting in the back seat on the opposite side. PPE should also be worn in the car at all times.
- Click here for the Canadian Centre for Occupation Health & Safety printable resource to support employers and workers in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
What if my employee refuses to work?
People are scared! No one wants to get this virus. However, unless they have been exposed to the virus through prolonged contact (at least 10 minutes) or are not washing their hands on a regular basis, people should still come to work if work is available. If they refuse, then before disciplining them, ask yourself if you can accommodate them in another manner. Are there other duties they may be able to do from home? If not, then you would be better off to look at lay-off rather than termination at this point. Lay-off allows you to let go of employees but be able to call them back once the pandemic is over, while termination ends their employment with no right to rehire once the crisis passes. However, by terminating their employment, you are required to provide them with pay in lieu of notice, while laying someone off does not necessitate this provision.
Testing your employees for symptoms of the virus
- The Government of Manitoba has stated that anyone who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 can be tested without a referral from HealthLinks. Symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore throat. Click here to take the self-assessment test ahead of visiting a screening location.
- Unless an employee (either a temporary foreign worker or a Canadian) is showing flu-like symptoms, be careful about taking everyone’s temperature. This could be a violation of human rights as determined through legal advice received on March 30, 2020.
- However, you can question their overall health prior to letting them in to the barn (e.g. How are you feeling today?). Should there be any concern, it would be better to send them home to recover for a few days than risk exposure to others.
- If you have employees who voluntarily decide to take their own temperatures, click here for a link to a chart for employees to use for monitoring.
Wage subsidies available
- Work-sharing – can you divide the work to reduce hours but still keep people employed?
- Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy – the government will reimburse employers up to 75% of wages to help keep people employed. Click here for Manitoba Pork's step-by-step guide to CEWS and call Janice at 204-471-6530 if you need help to access the subsidy.
- Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) – Western Economic Diversification Canada will provide eligible small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with an interest-free repayable contribution of up to $40,000 to help alleviate financial hardship resulting from COVID-19. The objective of this program is to assist western Canadian SMEs that do not qualify for the Canadian Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program or the RRRF Community Futures Stream.
- Summary of the Government of Canada’s response during the COVID-19 pandemic – information and implications for the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector (May 28, 2020)
- CPC - COVID-19 - Summary of Financial Support Programs - August 2020
- Canadian Emergency Response Benefit – up to $2000/month to people who have lost income because of COVID 19
- Employment Insurance regular or sick benefits – for people who have lost their jobs due to COVID 19.
Temporary Foreign Workers:
- The government has agreed to allow temporary foreign workers (TFW) and seasonal agricultural workers (SAW) into Canada. They MUST go through 14 days of isolation upon arrival at your farm location. At the same time, they MUST continue to receive their full wages while isolated and cannot perform any type of work.
- The federal government has announced that they will provide support of $1,500 per TFW to ensure these isolation requirements are met. If a farm is found in violation of this requirement, they will not receive this funding. The date for the implementation of this funding is still to be announced.
- It is your responsibility to monitor the health of your TFW through daily communication. If their family arrived with them, you should enquire as to the state of their health as well. Remember – they are your employees, so be compassionate and show you care about them.
- The federal government has also indicated they will be doing virtual inspections to ensure all TWF and SAW are well and employers are following the required mandatory quarantine.
- Click here to read Special Compliance Inspections for Employers of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- Click here to read suggested questions for an employer email to TFWs.
- Mandatory Isolation Support for Temporary Foreign Workers Program
Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB):
- We believe that workers will only receive benefits through Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba if it can be proven that they contracted the virus through their work. If you have concerns or require further clarification, please contact WCB directly at 1-855-954-4321.
- WCB has announced that they will be providing a rebate to all rate-payers on their WCB premiums. Details are available on their website.
Human Resources and Training Coordinator