Employees who knowingly go to work while sick will face fines, says leadership with the Northwestern Health Unit.

During a virtual conference with regional media members on Friday, Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, explained staff have seen cases of COVID-19 spread from residents who went into their workplace while experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

“Employees attending work when unwell is a concerning trend we’re seeing over the past few weeks. We will be laying fines to individuals who attend work when having symptoms of COVID-19. Staying home when you’re sick reduces the spread of COVID-19 and will help with what we’re seeing lately.”

Individuals who are required and told to self-isolate by public health staff but fail to do so can be charged and fined from $750 up to $5,000 per day. As well, you can be fined between $750 and $1,000 for not complying with the stay-at-home orders or not wearing a face covering when required.

The Class Order under Section 22 and the Health Protection and Promotion Act also state that the NWHU can go to court to seek an order to confine a person within a hospital or appropriate facility until the self-isolation period is over, to protect the health of the community.

Young Hoon says while she understands workers may go into work not knowing they’re sick or they’re asymptomatic, if you are experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms, you must stay home.

“We are asking that people stay home when they’re sick, and employers support employees appropriately with paid sick leave so they can stay home when they’re sick. Spread at this point seems to be driven by people who are not self-isolating when they could be sick with COVID-19.”

Ontario approved its new support program, the COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Program, on April 29. It provides three paid sick days to employees who do not receive paid sick days through their employer, and residents are eligible for up to $200 per day taken.

The paid sick days apply to those who are:

- Going for a COVID-19 test,
- Staying home awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test,
- Being sick with COVID-19,
- Going to get vaccinated,
- Experiencing a side effect from a COVID-19 vaccination,
- Having been advised to self-isolate by an employer, medical practitioner or other authority,
- Taking care of a dependent who is sick with or has COVID-19 symptoms, or is self-isolating.

However, Young Hoon says it can take between two and five days to receive COVID-19 test results in northwestern Ontario, and the three paid sick days for employees to self-isolate properly isn’t enough.

“This does put individuals in a very awkward position. We are wanting employers to support employees to stay home when they have symptoms of COVID-19, and to support them appropriately so it doesn’t lead to financial barriers.”

Everyone is asked to only leave their homes for essential reasons. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive case of the virus is asked to immediately self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known