It is prevailing expert opinion that, as the COVID-19 pandemic abates, regions will see a transition to an endemic or periodically epidemic virus — one that is persistent in the population, with possible peaks in prevalence. At the same time, health officials are cautioning that careful policy responses will still be required in the face of a post-pandemic COVID-19. Employers, workers, and labour representatives, having grappled with complex workplace issues arising throughout the pandemic, are now facing the further complex task of living with the virus for the long term. In this panel, experts will discuss key occupational health and safety considerations and related labour issues with respect to operating in a COVID-endemic world, including the following:
- How did the pandemic trigger occupational health and safety duties in new ways, and what new health and safety challenges may arise in a post-pandemic world?
- With many arbitral and court decisions upholding vaccine mandates but emphasizing the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, will continued mandatory vaccination policies — and continuing obligations such as booster shots — stand up to scrutiny as necessary for workplace safety? Should employers consider ending or modifying their policies — if so, when and how?
- Absent government mask mandates, can and should employers continue to require masks to be worn in the workplace?
- What role can COVID-19 testing or screening play, if any, in the post-pandemic workplace?
- What post-pandemic health and safety policies should employers consider? Should employers continue measures such as staggering breaks, requiring physical distancing, encouraging working from home where possible, etc.? What physical workplace changes (e.g. ventilation improvements, layout modifications, etc.) should be considered? Are these steps required under employers’ health and safety duties?
- What steps will employers be required to continue to take to protect employees who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19? Are continued vaccine and mask mandates, testing and screening measures, and other health and safety measures a necessary part of meeting health and safety duties and other legal duties to these employees?
- Are long-term changes to sick leave provisions and policies necessary going forward to ensure the safety of workers?