COVID-19: What you need to know
At home and at work, this is an
uneasy time for all Manitobans. The pace and complexity of the
COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing we’ve seen before, and we
know our members have lots of questions. Throughout this crisis, we’re working hard to update members regularly on this page and via email. If you are a member and would like to receive email updates, you can update your information here.
Here is what we know as of June 2, 2020. For the latest evidence-based advice for all Manitobans, go to the Manitoba Government COVID-19 website.
In order to minimize the impact on members, the MGEU continues to engage with employers and government officials to discuss a variety of options in response to the Premier's threat to layoff public workers.The MGEU has also called on the Premier to top up employment insurance benefits for those laid off (you can send a message here) and provide pandemic pay for those on the frontlines. During this pandemic we've called employers and government officials to:
- redeploy workers, instead of laying off staff;
- develop plans and means to communicate with staff on their workplace response to the COVID-19 pandemic;
- suspend the requirement for routine medical notes when employees self identify as sick;
- maximize social distancing in the workplace and promote working-from-home arrangements wherever possible;
- develop contingency plans for workers who must self isolate, including appropriate paid leave provisions for workers following official public health advice;
- take steps to provide clean hand washing facilities and alcohol-based hand cleansers in the workplace;
- undertake regular cleaning and disinfection of workstations and frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, handles, elevator buttons, and railings);
- reduce or eliminate all work related interprovincial or international travel for employees; and
- develop a process to accommodate workers with child care responsibilities during this health emergency.
COVID-19 Updates and News
Related News Stories
COVID-19 Member Updates
MGEU COVID-19 Update #6: March 30 2020 (Continuing to help you during "non-essential business" closure)
MGEU COVID-19 Update #5: March 26, 2020 (Working for you during these trying times)
MGEU COVID-19 Update #4: March 20, 2020 (Working from home)
MGEU COVID-19 Update #3 - March 19, 2020 (Redeployment of Health Care Staff)
MGEU COVID-19 Update #2 - March 16, 2020 (MGEU Meetings and Events)
MGEU COVID-19 Update #1 - March 12, 2020 (Reducing risks at MGEU offices)
Updated April 20, 2020
The Manitoba Government has prepared an information page for government employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage members to review it.
The MGEU has also created answers to some of the most common questions we’re receiving from members based on the information available at this time.
If you have other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the MGEU Resource Centre. The situation is often changing by the day, and even by the hour, but we will always do our best to get you the latest information.
Q. I want to work from home. Can I do that?
A. Public health officials are calling for “social distancing,” including allowing employees to work from home where possible. The MGEU is encouraging employers to actively pursue this option to allow employees to keep their maximum “social distance.”
Many factors influence the decision to establish a work at home situation, including:
- the type of work, and whether it can
effectively be done away from the workplace; and
- access to appropriate equipment such as a laptop and a remote connection.
If you feel working from home is a viable alternative for you, you should speak to your supervisor or manager about how this could be arranged.
Legally each employer does have the right to determine its own policy. If you have concerns about your employer’s approach to this issue, contact the MGEU Resource Centre.
Q. If I have to go in to work, how do I make sure I am protecting myself and others from infection?
A. Public health officials are recommending that all Manitobans minimize prolonged (more than 10 minutes) and close (less than two meters) contact with others. They have also recommended compliance on a number of workplace cleanliness measures.
The MGEU is encouraging all employers to:
- Arrange for essential meetings to be conducted by phone;
- Minimize or eliminate in-person contact in all directions (staff to staff, staff to client, staff to public);
- Stagger work hours;
- Reduce or eliminate work-related interprovincial or international travel for members.
- Provide hand washing facilities and alcohol-based hand cleansers in multiple locations throughout the workplace;
- Post signage in the workplace encouraging proper cough etiquette and hand washing;
- Undertake regular cleaning of workstations and objects that are touched frequently (doorknobs, handles, elevator buttons, railings) with disinfectant.
If you have concerns about your employer’s lack of precautionary measures, contact your Workplace Safety and Health rep, or the MGEU Resource Centre, who can put you in touch with them.
Q. What do I do once my child’s school or daycare closes and I don’t have alternate childcare arrangements?
A. First, it’s wise to document your reasonable attempts to find alternate care. Once it’s clear you cannot attend work because you must look after your children, you should immediately explain your predicament to your supervisor and ask for a work-from-home arrangement, the possibility of using accrued leave benefits, or a leave of absence.
If you are refused any of these accommodations, you should contact the MGEU Resource Centre.
Q. Will I be paid while I am absent to care for my children?
A. If your employer grants you leave due to childcare responsibilities, they are under no obligation to pay you while you are absent.
However, many employers have expressed willingness to allow their employees to use a variety of accrued benefits such as sick time, banked time and vacation accrual to minimize the financial impact of not being at work.
If you have spoken with your employer and you have no accrued benefits available, you can apply for the Federal government's Canada Emergency Response Benefit (formerly announced as the Emergency Care Benefit Plan).Learn more at What to do if you must be off work
Q. If I have to self-isolate for fourteen days on the advice of public health officials or my doctor, what type of paid leave is available?
A. You may be able to use sick leave or other paid leave credits such as vacation or accrued overtime. Check with your supervisor or HR.
If you do not have paid sick leave or other paid leave credits such as vacation or accrued overtime, you may apply for Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness benefits. EI sickness benefits provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and are available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. If you are mandated to quarantine, you will not need to provide a sick note.
Learn more at What to do if you must be off work
Q. Will I need a sick note if I call in sick right now?
A. Public health officials have recommended relaxing the requirement for sick notes to encourage sick employees to stay home and recover rather than visiting medical facilities.
We are urging employers to waive any requirements for routine sick notes, but each employer has the right to determine their own policy. If in doubt, check with your supervisor.
Q. I am in a high-risk category for experiencing extreme COVID-19 symptoms if infected. What can I do to stay safe?
A. We recommend immediately engaging both your doctor and your supervisor in discussions regarding a possible accommodation of your work duties to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Q. What do I do if I believe my workplace is unsafe?
A. The Workplace Safety and Health Act gives employees the right to refuse particular work if they believe on reasonable grounds that the work constitutes a danger to their safety or health.
The work refusal process that may result from COVID-19 concerns is no different than it would be in any other situations. You should immediately speak with your supervisor or manager to explain your concern and explore appropriate ways to mitigate the risk.
If in doubt, we recommend you speak with the Workplace Safety and Health Rep in your workplace, or call the MGEU Resource Centre, who can put you in touch with them.
Q. What should I do if I have had contact with someone who is/was positive for COVID-19 through my work?
A. You should report the exposure to your supervisor immediately and make a report through your employer’s normal accident/incident reporting process as soon as possible.
Q. Should I file a claim with the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) if I believe I’ve contracted COVID-19?
A. You have the right to file a claim with the WCB if you have reason to believe you have acquired the COVID-19 virus through occupational exposure. The WCB will accept claims if criteria of The Workers Compensation Act and relevant policy are met.
Remember, if you file a WCB claim, you are also required to report any injury/illness to your employer as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days from the occurrence of the injury / illness.
If you file a claim, the WCB will undertake an investigation to determine whether you have acquired COVID-19 as a result of occupational exposure to the virus. Like any other claim, all claims are adjudicated based on the specifics of your circumstances.
Q. Are there time limits on filing a WCB claim?
A. Yes, ordinarily, claims must be filed with the WCB within 1 year of the occurrence of the injury / illness.
Q. I feel nervous leaving the house but I am still required to work. What can I do?
A. Under Manitoba’s Workplace Safety and Health laws, your employer has to do all the is reasonable and practicable to provide for your welfare while performing work. The first thing you should do is discuss the matter with your supervisor and explain what you’re feeling and explore if it’s possible for you to work from home. If this is not possible and your employer requires you to come in to work during the pandemic, it’s important to maintain a distance of at least two metres between yourself and others. Practice good and thorough hand washing techniques, and keep your workspace as clean as possible. Stay home if you are exhibiting signs of a fever, cough, runny nose, or other symptoms of illness.
Q. What can I do if I am feeling anxiety about the events unfolding around COVID-19?A. The Canadian Mental Health Association says that stress and anxiety are natural reactions to uncertain and challenging times like these. Using relaxation techniques like mindfulness, yoga, creative expression, journaling, or exercising are helpful in dealing with stress.
It can also be beneficial to focus less on the news and social media for stretches of time, as this can contribute to feeling overwhelmed. Although we must maintain social distancing, it’s important to still connect with friends and family online or over the phone. Checking in on others and making sure they are okay often contributes to our own sense of well-being.