As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate, companies need to decide how they will continue to function, or whether they should shut down for the foreseeable future. Chances are that you are currently reviewing your emergency preparedness plans, and are implementing policies on how to manage employee absences.
There are two main reasons people are staying away from work at this time:
  1. For medical reasons, such as a confirmed COVID-19 case, or exhibiting other flulike symptoms, and
  2. For non-medical reasons (i.e., the employee has been exposed to COVID-19, but is showing no symptoms).
As WMC has received a large number of questions on this subject, we want to provide you with information and suggestions on how to deal with employee absences.

Short-Term Disability (STD) vs. Accommodation Cases

The first thing you should do is confirm the reason the employee is not coming to work. Are they showing symptoms (medical)? Have they been exposed, and are now in self-isolation in case they become symptomatic (non-medical)?
If the reason is medical and confirmed, our recommendation is to approve that person’s STD claim without a waiting period.
If the reason is non-medical, we recommend that this be considered an Accommodation Case (not an STD case). In this event, WMC’s hourly fee will be applied, as opposed to a fee-per-claim.

WMC’s Short-Term Disability Policy

Typically, STD benefits do not cover plant shutdowns. Therefore, if you decide to shut down or lay off employees, WMC recommends telling those employees to apply for EI benefits rather than STD.
Also, review your policy to see if there are any pandemic exclusions. This is rare, but as each policy is different, it is worth taking the time to examine yours.

WMC is Continually Monitoring the Situation

At WMC, we are committed to being your partner, and helping you navigate the days and weeks ahead. We are:
  • Closely monitoring the situation, and have put policies in place to ensure the health and safety of our employees
  • Monitoring staffing levels and work accommodations, and have additional resources available in case of an escalation of claims
  • Here to assist you, and will consult with you regarding next steps with any claims you may encounter over this difficult time
We understand that the constantly changing news and information can seem like a lot, so if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Anne Maul
Manager, Disability Management
Workplace Medical Corporation