In this post we review common questions and concerns from plan members with respect to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and benefits coverage. We share reminders about how to limit the spread of illnesses, and some tips to ensure your organization is prepared in case of widespread local illness.
The COVID-19 virus is dominating headlines, and it's natural for organizations and teams to feel apprehensive about the possible impact of the virus. It serves as a reminder of our exposure to regular flu as well, and the need to have protocols in place for dealing with contagious illnesses.
Understand Your Travel Benefits
Before booking travel or getting on a plane, consult the Government of Canada website for any travel advisories that may be in place for that region.
Check the Travel Advice and Advisories page for your destination twice: once when you are planning your trip, and again shortly before you leave.
Some Canadian insurers now consider COVID-19 a known risk and will not cover claims related to this illness that result in travel anywhere outside of Canada. It is important for plan members to understand their plan limitations prior to travelling as the situation is rapidly evolving.
We recommend that employees phone your insurer prior to departure regarding any updates to special limitations or considerations.
Disability Coverage and COVID-19
For organizations who do have insured short-term disability policies, the Canadian Life and Health Association has provided a simplified, streamlined disability claim form for individuals who are sick, or who have been ordered to quarantine themselves and can't work from home. The form can be accessed here.
If you don't have an insured short-term disability plan, consider reminding employees of your sick leave policy if you have one.
Communication for Your Team
COVID-19 has an incubation time of 1-14 days the average being 5 days. Symptoms can persist for longer than 3 weeks. That means that it is important for those who experience symptoms to self-quarantine.
To avoid significant business interruptions, you would want to create a culture where a team member feels comfortable reporting symptoms or contact with someone who may be infected.
Assure team members that your organization is committed to their safety and wellbeing.
Advise team members that if they have any of the common symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) to contact their physician or call 811 immediately.
Advise team members that they should stay home if they experience symptoms. Have a contact person at work who can provide support and to advise others who might have come in contact with that individual.
Remind team members of your Employee and Family Assistance Program if you have one - these are the types of valuable resources that can support the emotional wellbeing of your staff and those closest to them at this difficult time.
Encourage your team members to get prepared in the event that they need to be quarantined.
Provide reminders of how to stay healthy.
Sample wording for your team communication is included below.
Plan Ahead and Get Prepared
It’s a good idea to have supplies on hand so that you would not have to leave home if you became ill. Adding a few extra key items to your cart every time you shop places less burden on suppliers and can help ease the burden on you financially.
Non-perishable food items
Ensure you have enough prescription medication for at least two weeks in advance
Discuss plans with your colleagues, family, friends and neighbours in case of illness.
Stay Healthy and Limit Spread
Basic hygiene habits are our best defense.
Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
Cough or sneeze into your arm or sleeve
Consider a wave or elbow bump in place of shaking hands, hugging, or kissing
Reduce exposure to crowded places (using transit or shopping during non-peak hours)
Encourage those you know to stay home until healthy. Do the same. If you become ill, contact Health Link 811 to discuss any need for testing and follow up.
The rapid unfolding of events, travel restrictions, school and other public space closure are bound to affect the emotional wellbeing of many. Open and frequent communication about your organization's plans and contingency efforts can help support stability, calm, and hopefully further productivity.