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Update your HR plan for COVID-19

  • 3 min read

As COVID-19 spreads around the world, so does concern about its impact on public health. And while we learn more about how to prevent ourselves from contracting it, businesses, including farms, should have an updated HR plan in case of an employee outbreak. 

Update sick leave policies

Caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19 symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear, and even then, can be difficult to detect. Some may think they have a cold or influenza. 

“Farmers and farm employers must support workers to stay home if they’re sick, particularly with  COVID-19 symptoms,” says Jennifer Wright, a senior human resources advisor with the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council. “Employers should ensure they’re following recommendations put out by Public Health Agency of Canada.”

Some preventative measures include: 

  • Encourage employees to self-isolate when ill 
  • Suspend requests for medical notes
  • Prepare for increased absenteeism due to employee and family illness and possibly school closures
  • Increase distance between office workstations to two metres 

Stay informed

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) says it’s monitoring COVID-19 as it relates to Canadian agriculture and will provide weekly updates. They’ve also compiled a list of resources for farmers to learn more information about the virus and its spread. 

Laurie Karson of CFA also recommends reading Harvard Business Review’s 8 Questions Employers Should Ask About Coronavirus. The article offers common-sense tips and advice that would resonate with farmers or any business owner.

Tips include: how to best protect employees, when to exclude public or employees from the workplace and to review benefit policies if the workplace closes due to COVID-19.

Review your risk management plan

It’s crucial farmers have a risk management plan for their operations that factor in HR, communications and contingency plans for sickness outbreaks, says Wright.

“Having a risk management plan in place will ensure that if or when a crisis happens, there’s a structured, controlled response to it,” Wright explains.

The plan should also identify what to do if illness causes staffing shortfalls that prevent conducting time-sensitive work. “This may include having agreements with surrounding farmers for back-up support,” Wright says.

Have on-site quarantine procedures

Farm operations that provide housing for their workers must ensure their risk management plans consider large numbers of employees being quarantined or requiring health care, Wright says.

That includes identifying decision-makers, roles and responsibilities, access to medical care and plans for both quarantine and transportation to medical facilities.

“They should also include communications planning, such as who’s the point of contact, medical contacts, internal and external communication plans, contact information for all staff, suppliers and community services,” Wright says.

Bottom line

Farmers should adapt their contingency plans in case of a COVID-19 outbreak on the farm. Some actions include relaxing sick leave policies and arranging back-ups with nearby farms time-sensitive farm work. For farms that house workers onsite it’s critical to have a quarantine plan in place in case of an outbreak. Stay on top of COVID-19 news in Canada from the Public Health and the World Health Organization.

Article by: Richard Kamchen