In recent weeks, we have paid close attention to government and media reports confirming new cases of a novel coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China and spreading to a number of cities and countries worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently declared a global health emergency as the outbreak continues to spread. According to recent reports, there are confirmed cases in Canada in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.
While the public health risk remains low according to Health Canada, it is clear that the WHO and governments are closely monitoring the situation and taking precautionary measures to respond. In this climate, employers in Canada should also consider their obligations to protect the health and safety of their employees, particularly in the context of contagious illnesses. As many employers will recall, the legal obligation to ensure a safe and healthy workplace is expressly enshrined by applicable health and safety laws, and, therefore, employers should actively evaluate what timely and appropriate steps they can take for the protection of their employees.