It comes as no surprise to anyone to hear that employers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace for employees. But meeting that obligation has become increasingly complicated in recent months with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic making it harder to protect employees at work.
With the reopening of some businesses as part of BC’s Restart Plan, many leaders are now looking at how to allow employees to come back to work, and how to do that safely. For most, this means implementing new protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In response, some leaders are introducing routine temperature checks to detect potential illness in employees and help ensure sick employees don’t enter the workplace. Touchless scanners can quickly and accurately provide an indication of whether an employee’s body temperature is elevated, which may be an indication of COVID-19 infection.
Since privacy legislation has not yet caught up to specifically address employee temperature checks, it can be confusing to know what best practice is as an employer. While temperature checks might be one way to identify sick employees and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, if you decide to monitor employees’ temperature, what do you need to do to ensure their privacy is also prioritized?
While each workplace is unique, the following temperature check “Dos” should be kept in mind:
- Only obtain as much information as you need to effectively protect the health of your team members.
- Ensure the team member conducting temperature checks is trained to use the scanner properly and understands that other factors could influence readings.
- Provide proper personal protective equipment including gloves, a face mask, eye protection and a lab coat to the tester.
- Make sure tests are conducted in a private location, before the employee enters the workplace, away from other employees and out of earshot.
- Make sure hand sanitizer is provided in the area temperature checks are conducted.
- Ensure employees have provided consent to having their temperature checked (if an employee does refuse to have their temperature checked, it is reasonable to deny entry to the workplace on the basis of protecting others’ health and safety).
- Employees with temperature above 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C) should be advised to return home, self-isolate, and call their doctor to talk about next steps.
- Screening information should only be collected, used, stored, or disclosed for the purposes agreed to (as with any other personal employee information). For temperature checks, this means that unless there is a reason to, temperature check results are likely not recorded.
In a nutshell, while employee privacy is an essential consideration to keep in mind, health and safety must always come first! Keep in mind that this is an area of privacy law that is likely to evolve as well moving forward, so it’s important to stay informed and check for updates regularly.
Your Engaged HR Assignment:
Especially during these initial reopening phases, things are changing fast! To make sure you’re staying on top of things, set aside time in your calendar at least weekly to review and communicate your COVID-19 policies and procedures.
Do you have employees returning to the workplace? By now, we’re sure you have a plan in place to ensure worker health and safety as per WorkSafe requirements, but if you need support or have questions, we are here for you!