Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island

COVID-19 Health and Safety Information for Workers

The following provides workplace health and safety information for Island workers during COVID-19. Please check here frequently for updated information.

The Workers Compensation Board (WCB) urges all workers to follow the recommendations of the PEI Chief Public Health Office during the COVID-19 crisis.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms may include:

  • new or worsening cough
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • fever/chills
  • sore throat
  • runny nose, sneezing, congestion
  • headache
  • muscle/joint/body aches
  • felling unwell/unusual tiredness
  • acute loss of sense of smell or taste

Other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea have been reported, but typically along with other COVID-19 symptoms, and may be seen more often in children.

What should I do if I develop symptoms?

  • stay home (isolate) to avoid spreading it to others
  • if you live with others, stay in a separate room or keep a 2-metre distance
  • call your family physician or nurse practitioner or go to a drop-in clinic to be tested

What happens if an employee tests positive?

After confirmation of a positive test either by public health nursing staff or online, the employee must self-isolate and notify their close contacts and employer. To determine the next steps, the employee and employer should review Business Guidance: Employee Diagnosed with COVID-19.

What is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who:

  • you had face to face interaction with indoors or outdoors for at least 15 minutes, including 15 minutes in total over a 24 hour period (e.g. 5 minutes + 5 minutes + 5 minutes), or
  • you were within 2 meters (6 feet) indoors for at least 15 minutes, including 15 minutes in total over a 24 hour period, or
  • you were hugging, kissing, coughing or sneezing near, or
  • who provided care to you at home.

Note: If you (the person who tested positive) wore an appropriate well-fitting mask properly for the duration of the interaction, this would not be considered a close contact situation. An appropriate mask could be a three layer non-medical mask (that includes a filter layer), a medical mask, or a respirator.

Please advise your close contacts to visit COVID-19 Close Contact for more information.

As a worker, what can I do to protect myself from getting COVID-19 if I have to go to work?

As a worker, you have responsibilities to protect yourself as well as others. Workers should:

  • Monitor and follow the recommendations of the Chief Public Health Office.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer if hand washing is not possible.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Adopt physical distancing techniques.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
    • Workers providing essential services, including health care, must use the appropriate personal protective equipment and protocols and take steps to minimize exposure to COVID-19 while away from work.
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve and not your hands.
  • Know when to stay home. Workers should follow the Chief Public Health Office recommendations for self- isolation.
  • Comply with the employer’s instructions around minimizing exposure to COVID-19.

Are masks mandatory?

As of May 6, 2022, people in Prince Edward Island are no longer required to wear masks in indoor public places or in workplaces where distancing cannot be maintained. However, masks are still strongly recommended in indoor public places.

Masks are still required in certain high-risk settings, including:

  • hospitals,
  • long term care,
  • community care,
  • public transit,
  • students and staff in K-12 when they are on buses and when not seated in class, and
  • early learning and childcare.

Can an employer require their worker to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Maybe. Every workplace is different, but some workplaces may require workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine to return to or continue to work. Employers should seek legal advice when developing a mandatory vaccination policy. Employers need to address not only workplace health and safety and workers’ interests, but also consider labor and employer, as well as human rights issues.

Requirements for mandatory vaccinations should be justified by scientific evidence, should be time limited (i.e., during the pandemic) and be necessary in the context of the workplace because less-intrusive alternatives are not available.

Even where worker vaccination is mandatory, employers may have to consider what special arrangements can be made for a worker who is not able to be vaccinated due to a characteristic protected under the Human Rights Act. They must accommodate those who cannot receive a vaccine to the point of undue hardship.

The Human Rights Act does not provide protection to individuals who choose not to be vaccinated as a matter of personal preference.

Can an employer ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccination?

Yes. If an employer can justify the use of a mandatory vaccination policy, they can request proof of vaccination. An individual’s vaccination status is highly sensitive personal health information. Employers should only request medical information, including proof of vaccination, in a way that intrudes as little as possible on an individual’s privacy and does not go beyond what is necessary. The information should be kept confidential and should be destroyed when the pandemic is declared over by public health officials.

Can an employer terminate a worker for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Maybe. If a worker’s reason for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine is related to a characteristic protected under the Human Rights Act and the employer did not provide reasonable accommodation, that worker should contact the Human Rights Commission. Each complaint is assessed on a case-by-case basis, so it is not possible to predict the final result of the complaint.

The Human Rights Act does not provide protection to individuals who choose not to be vaccinated as a matter of personal preference.

As a worker, can I refuse work due to a COVID-19 concern?

When addressing a work refusal related to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to recognize that every refusal is assessed based on circumstances specific to the worker and their workplace. A worker can refuse work if a reasonable assessment of the risk suggests there is an immediate or imminent threat to their safety. A pandemic alone is not enough reason to refuse work. Further information on Refusal to Work can be found here.