Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Keeping workers safe and healthy is an important component of any well-run company.

 

However, managing the protocols and requirements that surround it is often an area that creates frustration for many businesses.

 

“A lot of companies put health and safety on the backburner prior to the pandemic,” says Ray Snow, President of Heartzap Safety Training & Equipment in Cambridge, noting the costs that often surround it. “But now they realize they can’t put it on the backburner and have to address it and that’s what we’re seeing now.”

 

He says companies that had once been shut down during the pandemic are seeing a larger Ministry of Labour (MOL) presence of in the community and are paying close attention.

 

“MOL is at construction sites and knocking on company’s doors seeing if they have their policies in place and are they following health and safety rules, and nobody today can afford to have their operations shutdown again.”

 

For that reason, he recommends businesses revisit their health and safety policies and protocols to make sure they are up to date.

 

“But not everyone has that ability,” says Ray, noting larger corporations have the staff to manage health and safety compared to SMEs. “An SME may have a health and safety committee, but they may not have a designated staff person that does health and safety management on a regular basis.”

 

He suggests an outside health and safety audit, which Heartzap provides, is a viable alternative to ensure a business is meeting the correct standards and practices, possibly saving them money in the end. According to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the average cost of a lost-time injury is $106,500 - $21,300 in direct costs (WSIB premiums) and $85,200 in costs to the company of the injured employee.

 

“We’re not there to point out all the faults. We’re there to help and grow with you,” says Ray. “Health and safety has always had that negative ‘cracking the whip’ connotation. It’s really more about education.”

 

Through a wide variety of virtual training courses, something Heartzap has offered for several years prior to the pandemic in a blended online and in-class format, he says companies can ensure staff working remotely can remain up to date on their training as part of any work-from-home policies.

 

“The shift is changing in the world and in Canada on how people learn. They don’t necessarily have to be in a classroom all day long,” says Ray, noting keeping current on rapidly changing health and safety guidelines has been a big concern for Heartzap clients. “As much as the government did a great job creating templates for everybody, they still required somebody to go look at them on a bi-weekly or weekly basis because it changed so much. The biggest concern now is getting people up to speed.”

 

He says the costs surrounding health and safety training have risen, just like they have for most businesses and that supply chain issues have affected the availability of products causing potential delays in delivery.

 

“I think everybody is kind of two and half years behind in health and safety in terms of training or policy work or reviewing their facilities, but everybody wants it done today,” says Ray, noting like many sectors, staffing shortages are causing delays. “We only have so many staff to get out there and get the job done.”

 

As a result, he recommends businesses don’t wait until the last minute when it comes to reviewing or updating their health and safety policies.

 

“If you want it done for the fall or winter, don’t wait for the fall and winter to come.”

 

To learn more, visit Heartzap Safety Training & Equipment.

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The number of employees returning to their workplaces has been steadily increasing since the start of the year, according to stats recently published in the Globe & Mail. However, as the months pass not all may be thrilled with the notion of going back to the office.

 

“We are hearing mixed reviews about returning to work and that has to do with both employee preference as well as the expectations that businesses put in place prior to the pandemic,” says Peninsula Canada Account Manager Victoria Vati, adding that if a business didn’t have a working from home policy in place prior to COVID-19 not many put one in place when staff began staying home. “This created confusion for staff who have been productively working from home for the last year or two, and now they are expected to return. Many of them feel as though it is not necessary to be there in-person and are pushing back.”

 

Victoria, an HR expert, says it’s imperative that workplaces ensure they have something in writing outlining what the expectation is for employees when it comes to returning to the workplace.

 

“It can be tricky to navigate this area completely,” she says, noting that some businesses have found it more lucrative to have employees work from home removing the financial need for physical office space. “Others may opt for a hybrid solution because they have the resources to accommodate and support both in-house and remote workers.”

 

When it comes to hybrid working, the JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle) Workforce Preferences Barometer report released in June notes that from among just over 4,000 office workers surveyed in 10 countries – including Canada - this type of work model was expected by 60% of respondents, with 55% already utilizing a hybrid approach.

 

The report also indicated that 73% of these office workers are going into the office at least once a week, an increase of 5% compared to March of 2021.

 

To ensure a hybrid model works, the report states that six out of 10 employees expect to be supported with technology and financial assistance for expenses linked to remote work and outlines the need for a ‘holistic’ approach to management since 25% of those surveyed felt isolated from colleagues, with 55% stating they missed the social interactions of the workplace.

 

“Many employees are mentally, physically and emotionally drained from the last two years,” says Victoria, adding that many employers are also feeling ‘burned out’ trying to juggle the day-to-day issues of operating a business amid financial worries and ongoing labour shortages. “The burnout is a little different for them, but they are facing it as well.”

 

She says not overworking their employees and themselves is very important.

 

“Employee retention right now is key for all employers. It is important for employers to provide support to their staff in as many ways as they possibly can. If an employee now suffers from anxiety due to the pandemic and would like to work from home on certain days, the employer has an expectation to (within reason) explore options to assist that employee. If remote working is not possible, then providing the employee with resources and guidance on where to turn to for help is also very important.”

 

Working for an employer that focuses on their health has become very important to many, as outlined in the report which states 59% of employees expect to work for a company that supports health and wellbeing and now rank them as the second biggest priority, after quality of life and before salary.

 

“It is important for employers to evaluate and understand the needs of the business and weigh the pros and cons of remote working,” advises Valerie, noting the recent implementation of Ontario’s ‘Right to Disconnect’ legislation is a great way to build transparency and trust in these changing work environments. “By enforcing this and educating staff on what their rights are, employers can create a culture of excellence and finding what works for both the business and staff.”

 

Visit Peninsula Canada for more information.

 

 

At a glance (Source: JLL Workforce Preferences Barometer)

  • Hybrid work has reached an ‘optimal point’ – 60% of office workers want to work in hybrid style today and 55% are doing so already (These figures were about 63% and 50% a year ago).
  • 55% of employees alternate between different places of work every week (+5% vs. March 2021).
  • 73% of office workers are going to the office at least once a week (+5% vs. March 2021).  26% exclusively in the office.
  • Six in 10 employees expect to be supported with technology and financial assistance for expenses linked to remote work. Less than four in 10 currently benefit from these types of initiatives.
  • Enabling hybrid work shows your people that you are flexible and empathetic employer – This workstyle is especially appreciated by managers (75%), Gen Z (73%) Gen Y (69%) and caregivers (66%).
  • Only 48% of the workforce believe that their company is a great place to work today.
  • 38% would like to work in an office that is designed sustainably.
  • 27% could leave their employer because they do not share the values promoted by their company.
  • 59% of employees expect to work in a company that supports their health and wellbeing. This is now ranked as the second priority at work, after quality of life and before salary.
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Nominations are now being sought for the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce’s Community Awards 2020-2022.

 

These awards - which have not been held since 2019 due to the arrival of COVID-19 – provide an important opportunity to celebrate the contributions and achievements of non-profit organizations, charities, and service clubs in Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries.

 

“There are so many individuals and organizations that have been doing some amazing things, especially during the last two years, to make our community an even better place to live and work,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “We want to ensure these community leaders receive the recognition they deserve.”

 

There are 10 award categories highlighting non-profit organizations, their collaboration with others, volunteer work, leadership, physical health and mental wellbeing, and education. As well, there is the Lifetime Achievement Award that will recognize the accomplishments of an individual who has been a driving force in the non-profit sector for more than 15 years.

 

“While it is a Lifetime Achievement Award, it does not in any way assume that the individual is retiring, leaving or otherwise,” says Greg. “It is really about recognizing the incredible leadership, contribution and tireless service an individual has lent us all, that most would assume it must take a lifetime to contribute all they do.”

 

Previous winners of this award have included former Langs CEO Bill Davidson (who has since retired) in 2018, and YWCA Cambridge CEO Kim Decker in 2019.

 

“They are perfect examples of the type of community champions that we wish to acknowledge with this award,” says Greg. “And we know there are others out there who have the same calibre of community commitment.”

 

He says commitment is also an important characteristic of the recipient of the Board Member of the Year Award.

 

“These are people who actually put their lives on hold in some ways to help guide the many organizations in our community who provide financial aid, services, and sometimes just help to others,” says Greg. “Not only do these people volunteer with their organization, but they also roll up their sleeves, get down to business and ensure their organization’s governance and operations keep them sustainable and delivering the services that are needed.”

 

Past recipients have included Mary Adamson from Argus Residence for Young People, Cambridge Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Angelo Loberto, and Paul Drouillard for his work with the Cambridge Shelter Corporation.

 

Along with these long-time Community Awards categories, the Chamber has also introduced several new ones this year including Innovation in Learning, Community Leadership, Community Impact, Community Collaboration and Healthcare Hero. This latter award is aimed at recognizing those in the non-profit sector for their involvement in creating or promoting programming or initiatives to assist with the physical health or mental wellbeing of residents.

 

“Our healthcare community has done an exceptional job throughout the pandemic keeping us safe, so this award will provide the ideal opportunity to say thanks,” says Greg, noting many in the non-profit sector and service club volunteers are often somewhat hesitant when it comes to recognizing their own impact and encourages organizations to nominate themselves. “Now isn’t the time to be shy. It’s the time celebrate what makes our community so great.”

 

Nominations close Sept. 1, 2022. For more, visit: https://bit.ly/3bhY7wZ

 

The award categories include:

 

Community Collaboration
Nominees for this award provide outstanding examples of collaboration within their communities.

 

Community Leadership
Nominees for this award stand out because of their exceptional professional and/or volunteer achievements in the community, which are above and beyond their role in a paid position as a CEO or executive director.

 

Community Impact
Nominees for this award recognize new and better ways to address a need in the community despite the many demands, and sometimes too few resources available.

 

Innovation in Learning

Nominees in this category, either individually or in a group setting, have worked selflessly to supply or support educational resources, programs, or initiatives that strive to prepare the next generation of talent in our community and/or provide them with a pathway toward a brighter and successful future.

 

Healthcare Hero
Nominees for this award are being recognized for their involvement in the creation or promotion of methods that keep the physical health or mental wellbeing of residents in Cambridge and the Township of North Dumfries at the forefront through a variety of programming or initiatives that encourage a healthier lifestyle and community in general. 

 

Board Member Award

This award is presented to a board member who have demonstrated outstanding service to a not-for-profit organization in City of Cambridge or Township of North Dumfries through the giving of their time, talents, and resources as a board member to further the goals and objectives of the organization.

 

Volunteer of the Year:

Nominees must have been involved in volunteering for the equivalent of at least 100 hours over a 12-month period.

 

Organization of the Year - Under 10 Employees

Are you a not for profit organization or service club that provides outstanding programs, services, events, or campaigns that support the needs of the community and its residents?

 

Organization of the Year- 11 and Over Employees

Are you a not for profit organization or service club that provides outstanding programs, services, events, or campaigns that support the needs of the community and its residents?

 

Lifetime Achievement Award:

Awarded to an individual who, over the past 15 years or more, has made significant contributions to the community and has improved the quality of life for citizens or whose accomplishments have brought recognition to the Waterloo Region.

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It’s not easy to operate or manage a business, even during the best of times.

 

But add in a worldwide pandemic, and the stresses many employers and employees face quickly become magnified.

 

“I have found over the past two years the one thing that is negatively impacting leaders is the societal expectations that they have all the answers,” says Lynn Charlton, proprietor of Lynn Charlton Business Solutions in Kitchener, noting COVID-19 did not come with a ‘playbook’ for businesses. “There is no historical data available that is comparable to our current circumstances.”

 

Lynn, along with Jim Moss, Executive Director of YMCA Workwell, will provide expert insight at our virtual event May 3 entitled A Difficult Conversation. Let’s #GetReal About Mental Health regarding the stresses employers and employees are now facing in the workplace.

 

“I think during the pandemic we’ve become a little shortsighted about the human experience,” says Lynn, noting that many employers are also employees themselves. “We forget about that part and that they are going through this just like everybody else. Everyone has been negatively impacted in circumstances unique to them, regardless of how we may present ourselves at work.”

 

When it comes to ‘big’ stressors for employers, Lynn says many are faced with turnaround pressure trying to translate the latest directives from a medical perspective and apply them to an employment perspective, explaining the Employment Standards Act has always been a very reactive piece of legislation.

 

“Employers are getting minimum support from the Employment Standards Act on how to interpret this information because we can’t keep up,” she says. “No one is letting anybody down and I think the expectation may be out of line of how quickly these things can be determined.”

 

Another stressor for employers is looking at the larger picture overall of how businesses must quickly learn to adapt.

 

“The pandemic has completely stressed our old norms and redefined expectations from both the leadership side to the employee side,” says Lynn. “The resiliency of our leadership has been dramatically challenged over the past two years and resiliency is not an infinite resource.”

 

She says having empathy in the workplace is key, especially now.

 

“It is important for both leaders and employers that empathy needs to be a two-way street,” says Lynn. “As much as we as leaders need to be empathic, our teams also during times like this need to be empathic towards their leaders.”

 

Jim, who will share the spotlight with her at the webinar, agrees and says employers must be able to read the signs when it comes dealing with their employees’ mental health.

 

“Mental health issues have a tendency to first show up in our behaviours and appearance,” he says. “Leaders with higher emotional intelligence often pick up on these types of signs more quickly as they are both consciously and subconsciously paying attention and prioritizing this kind of data all the time.”

 

To help the situation, he recommends employers be as adaptable and flexible whenever they can.

 

“When you can’t be flexible any further, be honest and upfront with people so they can make the best decisions for themselves,” says Jim. “Replace the golden rule with the platinum rule; treat your employees like they want to be treated not how you want to be treated. If people need to change jobs, talk about it early and make it work as best you can.”

 

At the webinar, he hopes to refer to specific data to give participants an even better understanding of surrounding some of these issues.

 

“Ideally, we hope that people will see themselves in the data that we share,” says Jim. “It will help them understand some of the ways that they might be feeling are the same as some others in the community while also realizing that many others feel similar, but for very different reasons.”

 

Lynn says she hopes participants will come away being able to identify some of the ‘red flags’ surrounding burn out in successful and productive leaders.

 

“We all have stress and it’s OK to have stress,” she says. “But it’s about how do we manage that work stress without negatively impacting our team and the people relying on us to be that ‘solid’ person in trying times.”

 

 

'A Difficult Conversation. Let’s #GetReal About Mental Health' takes place virtually Tuesday, May 3 from 11 a.m. to noon. Sign up at: https://bit.ly/3MjQcwm

 

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The lifting of provincial and regional mask mandates is welcomed news for businesses and customers alike.

 

While restrictions remain in place for public transit, long-term care and retirement homes, shelters and jails, the decision to keep masking, vaccination, or daily screening policies in place has basically been left up to individual employers who must also consider their obligation to protect workers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

 

When it comes to businesses that wish to keep masking in place, setting out clear expectations in a policy is essential – especially for businesses that are public-facing, says Dr. Nadira Singh, Chair of Business at Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning.

 

“The first thing you have to be clear about is posting your signage. You have got to let people know you are protecting your staff and your customers,” she says, recommending businesses also post any policies on their social media channels as well. “You want to make sure they feel safe being in your business.”

 

Carrie Thomas, founder of Nimbus HR Solutions Group, agrees and recommends changing the wording on signs to ‘freshen’ that messaging and suggests even moving them to another location in the business to draw renewed attention.

 

“Sometimes, we get so used to seeing something that we don’t see it anymore,” she says. “That’s how humans are built.”

 

Consistency, says Carrie, is key and that really knowing your customer base or employees can assist employers anticipate any potential reactions.

 

“You have to make sure you communicate your policy to them,” she says, noting that conveying to them the policy may be reviewed considering how rapidly public health directives can change may allay concerns, especially if someone is confrontational. “That would not be an untrue statement because many businesses may decide to review their policies on a monthly basis, while others may look at it on a weekly basis.”

 

Having a well-thought-out policy in place that employees can clearly deliver and understand will provide them assistance when working with customers.

 

“As individuals enter a business, hopefully they have seen the signage and will comply. But if they don’t, then we need to ask them for compliance,” says Nadira, adding training employees to read verbal and non-verbal cues has become vital during the pandemic when it comes conflict resolution. 

 

She says offering alternatives to customers, such as providing them with masks if they don’t have one with them or offering curbside pickup, may help. 

 

“You want to make sure you are keeping your customers and that at the end of the day, you are also protecting everybody,” says Nadira.

 

Carrie agrees and suggests keeping the politics surrounding COVID-19 out of any policy decisions, noting talking with employees should be the first step.

 

“You need to talk to your staff and figure out where the comfort level is for all of you,” she says, explaining that focusing any policy on the health and safety of your employees and customers sends a more positive message.

 

She says showing employees they are valued will go a long way.

 

“Trying to find employees is tough right now,” says Carrie. “I said at the beginning of the pandemic, how an employer treats their employees through this is going to determine how easy it is to find staff after it ends. The employers who have taken care of their people during COVID-19 are not the ones who are going to have a problem finding staff.”

 

For more about Nimbus HR Solutions Group, visit https://bit.ly/3DgoWve

 

 

Key pieces to a mask policy:

  • Education & training
  • Creating a clear policy
  • Offering alternatives to customers
  • Referencing Occupational Health and Safety Act regulations

 

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While working remotely has created new opportunities for many businesses since the start of the pandemic it has also put a spotlight on some concerns employers must now address as they continue to adapt to the seemingly relentless presence of COVID-19.

 

Among these is time theft, an issue which human resource experts say was already well known in workplaces but has become more apparent since employees began working at home.

 

Time theft occurs when an employee receives payment for time that is not spent doing their work, which could include conducting personal activities during work hours or taking long lunch breaks without telling their managers.

 

While there doesn’t appear to be any clear financial amount this type of activity costs Canadian employers, according to the accounting software site QuickBooks, in the U.S. time theft costs employers at least $11 billion annually.

 

“In certain scenarios, where trust was not there to begin with when employees were in the office and proper procedures were not in place, this remote element has just amplified the gaps between employers’ expectations and employees’ responsibilities,” says Kiljon Shukullari, a Certified Human Resources Leader at Peninsula Canada. 

 

His colleague, Peninsula Canada Account Manager Victoria Vati, agrees.

“For real time theft to occur the action must include an overtly fraudulent act, such as altering a timecard, punching in for each other, failing to record or falsely recording hours on an attendance management system,” she says, adding much of this type of time theft can be alleviated by software and refers to a system from BrightHR her company relies on.

 

This system, which does have a ‘check in and check out’ component, also includes an array of features to assist employees and employers regarding scheduling and accessing various documents. “It’s software that can assist in everyday HR related practices,” she says.

 

But there are a variety of aspects to consider when it comes to time theft, which requires setting out proper remote working policies.

 

“Other activities, such as surfing the internet too much, to running errands during the day can be alleviated by proper oversight from management and setting proper expectations in terms of production from employees,” says Victoria, adding after nearly two years into the pandemic many employers should now have these policies in place. “But it’s a matter of how you monitor that without micromanaging because that trust goes both ways.”

 

She says transparency is key when it comes to creating policies to manage a remote workforce.

 

“If that wasn’t there to begin with, now is a good opportunity to implement them,” says Victoria.

 

Kiljon agrees and says establishing those ‘core’ documents – including contracts and employee handbooks – form the basics of a good working relationship which could reduce the threat of time theft.

 

“It’s easier when an employer and employee start a relationship. It’s a lot harder when employees are already part of the business,” he says. “Existing employees is where we spend a lot of our attention to begin with because for a new employee and employer they are already starting on the same page.”

 

Kiljon says when it comes to introducing new work policies, communicating them well and acknowledging potential concerns from employees is a good approach. 

 

“The employer needs to be open to that two-way conversation with their employees and then the policy can be updated because at the end of the day, the employer does have the legal right to introduce any type of policies,” he says, adding some may be more straightforward, while others could appear harsh. 

 

Whatever the policy, Kiljon says being open to questions from employees and setting the right expectations and clarifying what the outcomes are for non-compliance can go a long way.

 

“Those are key things,” he says.

 

Trust, says Victoria, is at the core of the employment relationship.

 

“A company should start with the position of trusting their people,” she says. “It’s all about fairness and consistency in how employers treat their employees.”

 

To help the situation, both say providing the necessary supports to employees who may be struggling working remotely is a great way to build a better and more productive working relationship. This could include helping them setup a backdrop for virtual meetings, or ‘recreating’ their office space at home by providing them with more equipment, such as a second computer screen.

 

“Employers need to be aware of the contexts their employees are working in at home,” says Kiljon, adding encouraging employees to communicate via video rather than an email or text is a good way to maintain a more personal approach to contact. “Also, congratulate them for their achievements and help them through their difficulties and always keep an open-door policy. These are things that will help.”

 

For employers looking to introduce or revamp work policies, Victoria recommends using the services of an expert will help them in the long run.

 

“Employers are expected to be HR and health and safety and labour law experts, and it’s next to impossible,” she says. “If you can get free advice that’s great, but ultimately if you want to make sure your business is 100% protected it’s best to speak with a professional, even if It’s a consultation.”

 

For more information on Peninsula, visit https://peninsulacanada.com

 

Tips to prevent time theft: 

  1. Install time and attendance software 
  2. Keep open lines of communication between all staff
  3. Improve accountability at work
  4. Be understanding
  5. Do away with paperwork (handwritten timesheets) 

 

A few facts from Benefit Canada:

  • A study by Aternity Inc. found overall productive decreased 14% between Feb. 3 to July 9, 2020, as high levels of remote work were maintained due to the pandemic. 
  • According to the 2021 Benefits Canada Health Survey of approximately 1,000 workers, 66% said they feel less connected to their co-workers and employers since switching to a remote system.
  • 73% of respondents said they weren’t satisfied with their jobs, while 74% said they have a high level of stress. 
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A ‘ding’ indicating a new text or email has arrived on your cellphone or laptop is often too tempting to ignore for most people, especially when it’s work-related and even if it’s outside of what’s considered regular work hours.

 

The creation of the Working for Workers Act, 2021 aims to change this by requiring employers to develop a policy related to the right for employees to ‘disconnect’ after work, as well outlines prohibition – with a few exceptions - on non-compete agreements. 

 

“Ultimately, it’s about mental health and making sure people can have that perspective on it and companies are supporting those decisions,” says Frank Newman, who operates Cambridge-based Newman Human Resources Consulting. “The end result is a more productive work environment, but we’ve got to change our habits because we’ve gotten so used to emailing or texting late at night.”

 

The new Act requires that as of Jan. 1 of any year, employers with 25 or more employees must have a written policy in place before March 1 of that year with respect to having workers ‘disconnect’ from their jobs. As it stands, employers will need to have a policy prepared by June 2 of this year.

 

“Most will start from scratch and there will be quite a few policies that can be impacted by this,” says Frank, adding employers could begin by examining any current hours of work, or overtime policies they may already have in place.

 

However, he says the process doesn’t have to be a daunting task and should begin with some clear discussion between employers and their employees around expectations, on both sides.

 

“This is a great opportunity to really have an open dialogue with employees and start working on the question of what can you do to increase their performance during office hours, and how do they feel about disengaging,” says Frank, noting it’s hard, especially for those working at home, from keeping close watch on their cellphones or tablets.  “This is not a ‘do or die’ policy that deals with laying off people or increasing wages. This is basically looking at the working environment to see if it’s productive and are employees happy and feeling comfortable after shutting down.”

 

He says many organizations are still trying to find their ‘groove’ in terms of hybrid working arrangements since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting there are simple steps they can take to improve productivity when it comes to managing a remote workforce.

 

“For example, look at the way we structure emails. Do you always put ‘urgent’ in the subject line? Do you copy all your co-workers in every email?,” he asks, adding some workplaces have created times during the week where no meetings are scheduled to give employees the chance to work, or encourages them to take breaks. “There is a whole bunch of productivity protocols that companies can look at as part of this. But companies need to be creative with this, otherwise people are just going to fall back into old habits.”

 

For starters, Franks says it’s imperative that companies define what are ‘regular’ working hours and the expectations they have for employees surrounding them. 

 

“But more importantly, it’s about how you define what those expectations are after working hours and during emergencies,” he says, adding this is especially important for companies with offices located in other time zones. “You also have to think about how you contact with people when they are on sick or maternity leaves, again, respecting their right to disengage.”

 

Also, Franks says companies must define if this policy will apply to everyone.

“For example, if you’re vice-president of finance you may not be able to disengage during off hours,” he says. “But obviously, the intent of this is to turn everyone off if you can which is very difficult in this day and age.”

 

In terms of setting up a policy, Frank says it should start with a shift at the management level explaining leaders of the company may have to try and curb themselves from sending emails or messages after hours.

 

“Even if they’re texting or sending emails among themselves at those times, that’s going to filter through the organization,” he says.

 

But ‘disengaging’ is only one aspect of the Act. Another is the banning of non-compete agreements that prevent employees from exploring other opportunities, apart from ‘C-Suite’ executives.

 

“This is a good thing,” says Frank. “But it could be a little challenging for companies because they could lose some of their talent to competitors.”

 

However, he says having a comprehensive policy in place could also become a valuable tool to entice new talent, a bonus considering the ongoing labour shortages in many sectors. 

 

“It’s also a positive way to be able to attract employees because many are looking for more time off and more flexibility,” he says. “Companies can develop these policies as a positive way to say this is our values and this is our work culture. There’s really no risk to this.”

 

However, Frank admits it remains yet to be seen how the Province can enforce this Act, noting it will probably fall under governance of Employment Standards.

“This is going to be a challenge,” he says. “Trying to get the government to respond at the best of times can be a challenge.”

 

For more, visit: https://bit.ly/3qtsMfP

 

 Working for Workers Act at a glance:

  • Require employers with 25 or more employees to have a written policy about employees disconnecting from their job at the end of the workday to help employees spend more time with their families. 
  • Ban the use of non-compete agreements that prevent people from exploring other work opportunities in order to make it easier for workers to advance in their careers. Help remove barriers, such as Canadian experience requirements, for internationally trained individuals to get licenced in a regulated profession and get access to jobs that match their qualifications and skills. 
  • Require recruiters and temporary help agencies to have a licence to operate in the province to help protect vulnerable employees from being exploited. 
  • Require business owners to allow delivery workers to use a company’s washroom if they are delivering or picking up items. This supports the delivery drivers, couriers and truck drivers who have kept our essential supplies and economy going throughout the pandemic. 
  • Allow surpluses in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s Insurance Fund to be distributed over certain levels to businesses, helping them cope with the impacts of COVID-19.  
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A shortage of rapid antigen screening kits threatens to hamper the ability of local Chambers to assist Waterloo Region businesses stay safe over the next few weeks, says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Since the start of April, the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers have been working with Health Canada and the Province to provide free self-screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses throughout our Region.

 

Since that time, more than 700,000 of the kits have been distributed, not to just to Chamber members but all SMEs with less than 150 employees. The goal of the program was to identify asymptomatic or presymptomatic individuals from spreading COVID-19 in the workplace, at home and around the community.

 

“Up until December, everything was running very smoothly, and people were ordering kits and they were keeping workplaces safe,” says Greg, noting a provincewide shortage has altered that at very critical time for businesses. “There are a number of workplaces that are in a very vulnerable situation that are essential and it’s very important they screen employees every couple of days. You can’t have an essential business close their doors for 14 days.”

 

The Chamber initiative, which began as a pilot program and was quickly implemented provincewide by other Chambers through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network, is waiting on a delivery of approximately 150,000 of the kits to fulfill orders placed by businesses through its Chambercheck.ca portal.

 

“But the fact of the matter is we have at least 1,600 businesses who are now waiting in the cue to get their kits and we don’t have any,” says Greg, noting that leaves approximately 70,000 employees in Waterloo Region without access to rapid screening until at least mid-January.

 

“Even when we receive our order that still won’t be enough because to test that many employees we need at least 280,000 kits,” he says, explaining proper screening requirements call for employees to use the kits at least twice a week.

 

The Chamber’s last order of 50,000 kits – a week’s supply - arrived Dec. 6 and was quickly allocated to businesses or re-allocated to other businesses (including restaurants) if they were not picked up. 

 

“We know there are many workplaces that have to have them,” says Greg, adding a decision by the Province to distribute a single box of screening kits containing five tests to students over the Christmas break may not have been the best method. “It’s a great idea, but not enough has been handed out. Five tests aren’t enough and there isn’t a real strategy attached for their use and to even retain some tests for going back to school. Just handing them out is no real strategy.”

 

He says distributing through workplaces has been a great way to reach more people. 

 

“We’ve always said from the very beginning of this to the Province that about 63% of Ontarians are in workplaces so if you make rapid screening kits available for employees you have the potential to reach 63% of the population,” says Greg, noting not all employees may wish to take part in the screening program unless it was mandated. 

 

He says it would have proven cheaper for the Province to distribute more screening kits to workplaces and even curtail the resale of the kits for exorbitant amounts online.

 

“The BESTWR (Business and Economic Support Team of Waterloo Region), along with the Chambers, started encouraging the Province to do rapid screening in May of 2020 and it took them almost a year to get out and going because we stepped up to the plate and said we would do the pilot program,” says Greg. “We literally wrote the playbook so they could pass it on.”

 

He says running the free screening program through the Chambers has also ensured all the necessary safety protocols are followed.

 

“We have all the safeguards in place to make sure these kits are being used correctly and continue to be accessible to answer any questions if businesses have had a problem,” says Greg. “It really has been a seamless program, but now we’ve seen an unnecessary pause during the most critical time for these businesses.”

 

For information, visit Chambercheck.ca

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The decision by Premier Doug Ford’s government to extend its COVID-19 sick days program has pushed the issue of paid leave back into the spotlight for many employers and their employees.

 

The province announced Dec. 7 that it’s COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit, which require employers to provide up to three paid days off related to the pandemic and was to expire at the end of December, will continue until July 31.

 

But what happens after that date remains unclear, especially as the pandemic continues to drag on.

 

“In terms of what we do going forward, this is a question that deserves debate and discussion because on the one hand, there is a sound rationale to having a program like this in place, but the government can’t be footing the bill for everyone endlessly,” says Daniel Safayeni, Vice-President of Policy for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “And on the other side, small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the crisis and the cost of doing business has gone up.”

 

He says it is worth noting the government budgeted $1 billion for the provincial program and that less than one-tenth – approximately 10% - has been used since it was launched last April. Under the program, employees receive a maximum of $200 per day, with the province reimbursing the employer. To date, employers have submitted more than $80 million in wages for sick pay claims for more than 235,000 workers.

 

“What we’ve seen in the numbers, on average by those who’ve used it, is no more than two sick days,” says Daniel.

 

The idea of transitioning this support to a more permanent sick day program of 10 days is something the Ontario Federation of Labour has been lobbying the provincial government to implement. In fact, a poll conducted by Envrionics Research in the last two weeks of November of 2021 indicated that 80% of the 1,210 respondents supported the Federation’s call for 10 permanent employer-paid sick days. 

 

“It is far past time for Ford’s Conservative government to finally do the right thing and introduce permanent, adequate, employer-paid sick leave and Ontarians overwhelmingly agree,” said Patty Coates, Ontario Federation of Labour President, in a Dec. 9 post on the group’s website. “The Worker Income Protection Benefit is temporary and inadequate. While Ontarians face the rise of a new COVID-19 variant and flu season, we urgently need this common-sense health measure to keep ourselves and our communities safe.”

 

But rising inflation and budgetary constraints faced by many businesses at this time would make implementing such a permanent program difficult, which is why Daniel says careful discussion is imperative.

 

“Ideally, there is a balance that can be struck in some future version of this program (Worker Income Protection Benefit) in which the government can still support these three sick days, particularly for smaller businesses that are in-person and don’t have the remote capabilities or don’t necessarily have the resources to fund an additional benefit like this,” he says, adding many larger businesses may already have sick day policies in place. “Perhaps there is some evolution that can occur for those that don’t, and that expense is eventually transitioned over to the employer. But this stuff needs to be done in consultation with the business community and the timelines need to match the economic backdrop.”

 

Daniel says implementing a more permanent paid sick leave program should not be part of any election promises.

 

“Right now, it’s getting mixed up within the context of an election,” he says. “It also has to be thought of within a broader package of benefits and compensation that employers are providing.”

 

And while the pandemic continues, especially for workplaces like smaller manufacturers, Daniel says the need to extend this program is important.

 

“The other backdrop to this is there is a war on talent and labour shortages and you’re seeing businesses trying to compete in the benefits they offer and to try and be an attractive place to work,” he says, adding providing a safe workplace for employees should remain the top priority right now, especially in the ‘essential’ sectors of retail, administration, and manufacturing. “It’s in no one’s best interest for a business to be in a situation in which they are risking the health and safety of their employees and by extension, the continuity of their business operation.”

 

Daniel says now is the time to investigate where this paid sick day benefit program can lead.

 

“It was wise of the government to extend this program, but let’s use the time we have between now and July to determine what the next step for this will look like,” he says. “As a Chamber network, we need to continue to do more work to understand where our members are at this time and what avenues for us going forward could be used to have a productive solution in place.”

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For the first time since March of 2020, the Chamber hosted its first in-person Business After Hours event on Dec. 13 at Four Fathers Brewing Co.

 

It was a great opportunity for our Members to meet safely and reconnect with old friends and new ones.

 

We also took this opportunity to ask a few our guests the following question:

 

What will you remember the most about the pandemic?

 

 “Probably how well we can pivot. People can pivot and basically take a look at things and do things differently.”

- Tony Rossel, Best Version Media

 

 “I will remember missing community and just being able to meet with people and see faces and connect in-person,”

- Heid Brouwer, Galt Osteopathy

 

 “Endless Zoom meetings and learning how to facilitate meetings. It looks a lot easier than it really is. And that the number of kilometres I’ve driven has been cut in half. We’ve discovered some creative solutions and so much work is now being done at home.”

- Murray Smith, Blue Canoe Consulting

 

 “How poorly the government handled this. They contradicted themselves a lot initially with what you should do – wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, wear two masks, or get the AstraZeneca shot, or no you don’t need the AstraZeneca shot. They tried too hard without putting any thought into it and it just never seemed to work. I will remember that indecisiveness – everything’s fine, or no it’s not. They didn’t lead well, and I will always remember how poorly they led us through this.”

- Rick Gallinger, Top-Notch Concierge

 

 “I will remember how much I missed being around family and people. Sometimes it makes us realize how grateful we should be when everything is good because we take a lot of things for granted, and we really need to be more thankful and more aware and enjoy every moment that we can.”

- Maggie Herrington, Top-North Concierge

 

 “I just feel so fortunate that we were able to continue to stay open and look after our customers. I feel like we’ve been really lucky,

- Laurie Herald, Cambridge Tirecraft

 

 “The fact we couldn’t have in-person social events.  For me, I miss that interaction and I’m so excited that we are slowly getting back to reality. But the worst part has been looking at your family and friends losing jobs and having to stay at home. I have two stepchildren and the virtual learning was really hard for them. I think it was struggle for them and the teacher so I’m happy they are back in the classroom.”

- Stephanie Jane, Marketing Manager at Four Fathers Brewing Co.

 

 

 

 

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