New guidelines aimed at forcing travelers returning from West Africa (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) to refer to local medical authorities on their return on Canadian soil have been issued by the Canadian government. These guidelines, in force as of November 11, 2014, also provide that travelers should monitor their symptoms, notably by taking their temperature daily for 21 days following their return.
As an employer, how should you react when an employee announces that he or she has travel plans in West Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Uganda?
First, it should be noted that no case of Ebola virus infection (or its neighbor virus, Marburg, especially rampant in Uganda) has been identified in Canada to date. However, the employer can take action to protect the workplace on the return of an employee who visited an affected area.
Since the incubation period of 21 days is significant, it is desirable to take preventive measures to prevent the employee from losing pay or having to exhaust his or her accrued time-off days.
- Before Departure
- Check with the employee as to his or her itinerary and date of return on Canadian soil;
- Provide the employee with a copy of the guide Travel to and from Ebola-affected countries: What you need to know prepared by the World Health Organization, available at: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/infographic/en/;
- Where the employee's functions allow it, establish a work-at-home agreement with the employee for the first few days back on Canadian soil and provide him or her with the tools necessary to perform his or her functions;
- Inform the employee that he or she must follow the guidelines for self-monitoring of symptoms for 21 days following his or her return, including taking his or her temperature daily, and obtain a commitment from the employee as a condition for returning to the workplace;
- Advise the employee not to report to work if he or she has a fever or other symptoms (such as the appearance of a sudden fever, muscle aches, headache and sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, bleeding gums, etc). For more information, see: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/;
- Notify the employee that he or she will have to leave the workplace in case of sudden onset of fever during the day or other symptoms;
- Notify the employee that if he or she seems feverish, he or she will not have access to the workplace until a medical certificate attests his or her fitness.
- On Return
- Remind the employee of his or her commitment to self-monitor and deny access to the workplace in case of fever;
- Direct the employee to health services in case of fever or appearance of other symptoms.
- General Preventive Measures Today
- It is desirable to modify vacation application forms so that employees disclose their travel destination if it includes Africa, to facilitate preventive measures before and after return.
If the organization provides health care or works with vulnerable or immunocompromised persons, additional precautionary measures may be necessary. See http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/filovirus_infection_control/en/.
*This bulletin is prepared on the basis of information available as of November 11, 2014. Keep an eye on the guidelines of the Public Health Agency of Canada: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/lab-bio/res/psds-ftss/ebola-eng.php.