By Brett Bundale
THE CANADIAN PRESS
On the factory floor, masks were optional.
Until last month, workers at TEC Business Solutions’s corrugated packaging plant in Mississauga, Ont. donned a mask, underwent a COVID-19 screening, had a temperature check and sanitized their hands but once inside and at their own stations, they could remove their masks.
“It gets really warm in there and it can be hard to breathe with a mask,” said Mike Prencipe, the chief operating officer at TEC Business Solutions. “We said if workers can physically distance, they can remove their masks.”
Then two shop workers tested positive for COVID-19, followed by two office employees.
“Everyone around them had to quarantine,” Prencipe said, noting that the bulk of the plant’s workforce had to stay home for two weeks. “We’ve now made it our own policy that if you’re in the plant, you have to wear a mask at all times.”
The small outbreak at the Ontario packaging plant illustrates how workplaces are emerging as a driving force in the second wave of the pandemic.
A growing number of infections can be traced back to workplaces, including in manufacturing, warehouse and shipping facilities, according to Ontario data on active outbreaks by setting.
The province declared a second state of emergency Tuesday amid rising COVID-19 case counts and tightened rules around masks in workplaces among other measures.
More than 10,000 workers have contracted COVID-19 due to work-related exposures, statistics from the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board show.
One of the issues that appears to be fuelling workplace infections is the lack of clarity or consistency surrounding mask-wearing rules in workplaces in Canada.
Across the country, each province and in some cases individual health units or workplace safety boards offer varying guidance on masks at work.
It’s a patchwork that can be confusing. Multiple business operators say they want to stick to the rules and keep workers safe, but have found the regulations unclear.
The “ambiguous” messaging around mask-wearing in the workplace prompted the office manager at TEC Business Solutions to repeatedly call public health over the last several months to ensure they were following rules, Prencipe said.
“We wanted to follow the protocols and keep our employees safe,” he said. “They told us we were taking the right precautions.”
Still, Prencipe made the call to tighten the mask rules in his workplace following the December outbreak, a move that Ontario appears to have followed.
In response to the “alarming and exceptional circumstances,” the province said individuals are now required to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of businesses at all times.
Ontario is also stepping up enforcement measures. Provincial workplace inspectors are expected to focus on areas of high transmission, including break rooms, and issue tickets those not wearing a mask indoors.
Indeed, Prencipe said the virus may have been spread in either the company’s lunchroom or bathroom, spaces that both plant and office workers access.
Yet other provinces continue to only require masks in workplaces where employees are interacting with the public, or if two meters of distance cannot be maintained between workers.
In Nova Scotia, for example, the provincial mask requirement applies to spaces the public has access to not private spaces.
“We encourage business owners/employers to set their own policies for private spaces,” Health Department spokeswoman Marla MacInnis said in an email.
The Plaintiff and her employer were defendants in an action that made a number of allegations, including negligence and fraud (the Original Action). The Original Action triggered partial coverage for both the Plaintiff and her employer under the employer’s Professional Liability policy (the Policy). The Policy set out that the insurer, in the insured’s name and behalf, had the right and duty to investigate, defend and conduct settlement negotiations, but it agreed that it would not settle any claim without the consent of the insured.
The insurer appointed counsel to defend the Plaintiff and her employer in the Original Action. The Plaintiff alleged the lawyer retained by the insurer was negligent, thus giving rise to the litigation in question.
Early in the Original Action, the Plaintiff raised the possibility of seeking a summary dismissal with the lawyer. The lawyer held the opinion that there was no real chance of succeeding in a summary dismissal application at that stage of the litigation. The Plaintiff was aware of this opinion and did not push the matter further at that time.
Several years later, the Plaintiff instructed the lawyer to have the claims made against her dismissed. The lawyer advised the Plaintiff that he could not follow her instructions as the insurer had the sole right to instruct counsel and, even with the passage of time, he held his opinion that the summary dismissal application would likely not succeed.
Later, the claimant in the Original Action made an offer of discontinuance on a without costs basis (the Offer). The insurer and employer consented to the Offer, but the Plaintiff did not. The lawyer ultimately withdrew as counsel for the Plaintiff due to this disagreement.
The Court in Kostic found that the lawyer misunderstood the nature of his role as defence counsel. Although he was retained through the insurer, the lawyer’s clients in the Original Action were the insureds, the Plaintiff’s employer and the Plaintiff herself. The lawyer was obliged to take instructions from the Plaintiff, unless those instructions put him in a position of conflict between the Plaintiff, her employer and/or the insurer. The Court held that the lawyer’s misunderstanding of the nature of his role as counsel for the Plaintiff resulted in her receiving poor communication. The reporting letters sent to the insurer as the Action proceeded should have been copied to the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff should have been made more aware of the defence strategy.
The Court ultimately dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim against the lawyer and found there was no evidence of a conflict of interest until divergent instructions were given by the Plaintiff respecting the Offer. At that time, the lawyer properly withdrew as counsel for the Plaintiff. The Court held that the prior disagreement on bringing a summary dismissal application was a mere disagreement with respect to litigation strategy, which did not amount to a conflict of interest. If it did, the insurer’s right to control the defence stipulated in the Policy would be effectively meaningless.
Kostic serves as a reminder of the obligations an insurance defence lawyer has to insureds. Defence counsel should be aware of their obligations to both the insurer and insured in these situations. In this sense, Kostic is not “ground-breaking”. Where Kostic is of greater assistance is in its commentary respecting communication obligations. While insurers may have control of the defence of an action, it is clear that there must be communication with insureds to an extent that would permit the insured to understand strategic decisions. Whether this understanding is to be held to a subjective or objective standard is unclear from the ruling. We would assume it would have to be objective, albeit counsel would be well served to cater to her audience. At a minimum, it would seem prudent for defence counsel to report to the insured as frequently as her reports to the insurer. Finally, Kostic provides helpful clarification on when a conflict of interest might arise in these circumstances. It seems very reasonable to find, as the Court did, that counsel would need to remove herself where there is a material divergence of views on key strategic decisions such that there is a reasonable apprehension of a conflict between the interests of the insurer and the insured. Imposing such an obligation at an earlier stage would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for counsel to represent both the insured and insurer.
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The excerpted article was written by · CBC News
Canadians forced to spend days trying to get through on Service Canada’s designated phone line to sort out problems with their employment insurance applications are sharing tips through social media and web forums — including a link to an online form that can get an agent to call back within 48 hours.
But government officials warn that if the number of people using that fast-track form increases substantially, the system will not be able to manage the volume — meaning longer waits for a call back, or perhaps no call back at all.
“There isn’t any hidden capacity in the system,” said one senior government official familiar with the situation, adding the form was created in the wake of the temporary closure of in-person Service Canada centres due to the pandemic.
“The form is not a substitute for the call centre route,” he added.
Many Canadians who applied for EI after losing their jobs due to the pandemic — and before the Canada Emergency Response Benefit was announced — say they have spent days trying to get through to an agent after an administrative snafu tied up their applications and they were told to contact Service Canada.
Those who can’t get through also can’t get paid. Many have gone weeks without receiving any benefits.
More than 2 million applications in a month
More than two million people applied for EI in March alone after economic activity shut down across the country. After that initial rush, the government redeployed 3,000 Service Canada employees to help with the call volume. Clearly that hasn’t been enough, especially on the call centre side.
Those phoning the call centre often hear an automated message telling them that call volume is too high and they must try again at another time. Callers are not given the option of requesting a call back.
“The system does not have that ability,” said the official. “Upgrades are necessary to do that and that is not a short-term fix.”
But Canadians have discovered that online callback form and have been sharing it on Facebook and Reddit, among other websites.
‘I figured it can’t hurt’
“I was up late worrying one night about how I was going to pay my rent and bills,” said Shelly Obholzer, a single mom who applied for EI but hadn’t received her money.
When she couldn’t get through to an agent over the phone, she found the form and gave it a shot.
“I figured it can’t hurt to see where it would go, considering I wasn’t able to get through (on the phone). Three days later I received a call … to my surprise it was a rep from Service Canada,” said Obholzer, adding that the agent sorted out her problem and told her to use the form again if she needed further assistance.
The form does not ask for any sensitive personal information. It asks for the applicant’s name, preferred language, location and phone number. It lists the applicant’s reasons for needing assistance; applicants can check off more than one box. There is a box at the bottom to type in details of the relevant problem.
Marina Mitchell applied for EI at the start of her maternity leave six weeks ago. She found the link to the callback form through a Google search which led her to the website of a financial and credit counselling company that was telling its clients about the form.
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By Stephanie Taylor
THE CANADIAN PRESS
REGINA _ Kelly Knowles has many questions about returning to work, including where her son would go.
The Regina hairstylist contacted his daycare after the Saskatchewan government announced last week that some businesses such as salons, shut down because of COVID-19, could reopen in mid-May.
She was told there is space for her 2-1/2-year old, but the centre is only caring for kids of essential workers. And with her partner still working, there isn’t anyone else at home to help, she said.
“If I did go back to work, we do need that extra care,” Knowles told The Canadian Press.
“I can’t open up my schedule and start accepting my guests to come in if I don’t have a daycare for my son.”
Questions about child care and schools are being raised as various provinces outline their plans to relax public health restrictions so that some services and businesses can reopen and residents can go back to work.
“For families with kids, they can’t participate in that if they don’t have child care,” says Jennifer Robson, associate professor in political management at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Each province is dealing with the issue differently.
In Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe has said students are unlikely to return to classes this school year. On Thursday, the province announced child-care spots reserved for the children of essential workers will also go to children whose parents are headed back work in the first two stages of its reopen plan.
Manitoba plans to keep schools closed, but intends to allow day camps with a maximum of 16 kids per site.
Schools and daycares in Quebec are to reopen May 11 outside greater Montreal, but high schools are to stay closed until September. In Ontario, publicly funded schools are to stay closed until at least the end of May.
The inability to provide hard timelines is understandable, Robson says, since those decisions are driven by medical evidence.
She says households with parents who can resume work will be figuring out what makes economic sense. And without child care or schools, someone has to stay home with the kids.
“Gender roles being what they are and gender-related pay gaps being what they are, odds are good that most families are going to elect to have Mom end up staying home with the kids.”
Lindsay Tedds, professor of economics at the University of Calgary, says women have already borne the brunt of the pandemic and, without child-care options, that could be exacerbated.
Citing a Statistics Canada labour force survey from March, Tedds says women were the hardest hit by job losses and a lot of the impact was felt in female-dominated sectors such as hospitality and tourism.
“Women had to leave their jobs even before the big shutdown started simply because the schools shut down.”
In a statement, the president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, acknowledges that restarting the economy will be tough for working parents if schools and daycares stay closed during the initial phases. Goldy Hyder encourages employers to be flexible.
Dan Kelly, head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says some employers may not be able to find workers who can pull away from their families. But he feels it’s better to move ahead with an imperfect plan than to keep the economy frozen.
While some parents can work from home, those who work in bars, restaurants and sectors such as the airline industry cannot, Tedds notes.
She and Robson say household incomes will continue to take a hit if both parents can’t get back to work. Gains made over the last few decades have been in large part thanks to women entering the labour force.
They also say time away from work may mean not getting promotions or building up work hours associated with career advancement. As well, staying home means not paying into a pension plan or employment insurance, including maternity and paternity leave.
“If we’re … expected to go back to work and nobody has thought about what we do with the kids, we have a huge problem,” said Tedds.
The CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation says it’s time governments examine how child-care centres are funded. Right now, without receiving fees from parents, they could close.
Paulette Senior says Ottawa has a critical role to play.
“This government is committed to gender equality and gender equality is an essential rung to the economy.”
Maryam Monsef, federal minister for women and gender equality, says in a statement that the pandemic has shown long-term solutions are needed in child care _ and provinces need to collaborate.
“It is clear that the steps that all orders of government take in the next days and weeks as we contemplate slowly reopening our economy will require a vision for child care.
“We can’t resume without it.”
Rachel Aiello Ottawa News Bureau
OTTAWA — Part-time and seasonal workers are now eligible to claim the $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and new money is coming for front-line workers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Wednesday.
Now, workers who are earning up to $1,000 a month, such as contract or gig economy workers, or who have seasonal employment and can’t find a job due to COVID-19, as well as those who are running out of employment insurance, can now apply to collect the CERB for up to four months.
“Maybe you’re a volunteer firefighter, or a contractor who can pick up some shifts, or you have a part-time job in a grocery store. Even if you’re still working, or you want to start working again, you probably need help making ends meet,” Trudeau said.
Unveiling the anticipated eligibility expansion to the CERB program that six million Canadians have already applied for, Trudeau said he is also working with the provinces to boost wages for essential front-line staff to keep them on the job.
He said, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, wages are going to be boosted for essential workers who are making less than $2,500 a month, “as quickly as possible.” It’ll be on the agenda during his meeting with the premiers on Thursday.
This new temporary top-up will be distributed through a transfer to the provinces, with the cost shared, given public health care is generally a provincial responsibility.
Details on which staff will be deemed essential and would be eligible for this new funding is still being worked out, but the federal government estimates it could help “several million workers.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the idea was first brought up by Trudeau on last week’s call with provincial and territorial leaders and it received an “enthusiastic response.”
Trudeau said that the essential front-line staff in hospitals, seniors’ homes and long-term care facilities are doing “some of the toughest jobs in the country,” and because they are now being asked to only report to work at a single facility, their income could be less than what they’d receive if they stopped working and collected the CERB prior to this expansion.
“For many workers looking after the most vulnerable Canadians, including seniors and those with disabilities, we know conditions have gotten more difficult over the past weeks. And you need support right now,” Trudeau said.
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With the unprecedented global pandemic of Covid-19, companies are adapting to the new reality of social distancing and self-isolation practices encouraged by our government and health authorities, leading many businesses to transition large numbers of employees to remote working. Many of these employees have no prior experience working remotely, and in some cases, may not be properly equipped to do so.
Remote working requires, among other things, equipping employees with the ability to connect to company servers from home. This transition requires furnishing employees with the tools required to carry out their work efficiently, such as providing them with laptops, at home workstations, and remote access to secured networks and other company resources.
Unfortunately, the transition to working remotely almost certainly will mean increased risk of cyber attack and cyber losses. Cyber risks faced by businesses today take different forms. In addition to hardware and/or software failure, the loss of portable devices such as laptops or smart phones, and the use of unsecured Wi-Fi connections by employees, companies face sophisticated attacks from hackers targeting users seeking information on Covid-19.
Given these risks, it is critically important businesses take steps to insure and protect themselves against cyber losses.
Cyber Insurance-What is it and What Does It Cover?
Cyber insurance provides protection and coverage for the security and privacy of digital information and losses resulting from data breaches.
Cyber risk policies provide both first party and third party coverage. Cyber insurance may take the form of a stand-alone policy or be made available by way of endorsement to a D&O or E&O liability policy. Though each policy varies, and a policy should be thoroughly reviewed prior to purchase, first party coverages typically provided under a cyber insurance policy include:
- expenses incurred by a company as a direct result of the breach, including remediation and notification expenses, as well as crisis management expenses; and
- resultant costs such as business interruption and loss of goodwill.
Third party coverage under a cyber insurance policy typically provides coverage for liability in connection with losses suffered by customers as a result of the theft and use of their personal and/or financial data.
Most insurers also offer value-added services, such as network security testing, designed to help companies avoid and mitigate the effects of a data breach, and crisis management services.
Ensure That Your Cyber Insurance Policy is Comprehensive Enough to Suit Your Company’s Needs
Coverages offered under cyber insurance policies vary considerably. When purchasing a cyber insurance policy, the policy wording, and especially the exclusions, should be reviewed with a professional to ensure the potential loss events your company may face in the event of a data breach are covered. The type of coverage required will depend on the nature of the company, the types of information it stores within its secure network, as well as the types of activities the business participates in.
What Can Employees and Employers Do to Prevent Cyber Attacks?
Both employers and employees must take utmost care to protect themselves as well as confidential company information, especially while working remotely. Such steps include:
- Encouraging employees to pay attention to phishing emails, which are emails disguised with an enticing link, that when clicked on, can download malware onto a device and the company’s systems;
- Ensuring employee devices are up to date on their anti-virus protection;
- Ensuring employees are working on secure, password-protected internet connections and reducing the use of public Wi-Fi as much as possible;
- Reminding employees personal email should not be used for any company business; and,
- Urging employees to keep track of what they are printing at home and to shred confidential documents as soon as possible before they are disposed of.
The best way to protect your company from cyber risks is to ensure appropriate preventive measures are in place and employees working from home or with remote access to company data are trained on how to implement these measures. We must all be diligent in protecting and securing sensitive business data and client information. However, when an attack does happen, it is crucial to have the right cyber risk insurance products in place to assist in dealing with the after-effects of a breach.
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The content of this article is intended to provide a gener