By David Paddon
THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO _ COVID-19’s devastating impact on seniors in the months since the virus became a global menace has many Canadians wondering what can be done to protect their aging loved ones.
Experts say that too often, people fail to anticipate the long-term needs of aging and are unaware of the various forms of government assistance available to them.
A good way to start the planning process is to learn about the multitude of government programs and tax credits that can reduce the financial burdens for seniors and their families, says Robyn Thompson, president of Castlemark Wealth Management in Toronto.
“Take free money where you can,” Thompson says. “Make use of all the available resources. And then look to your investments and your portfolio after that.”
For example, Canada Revenue Agency lists 134 different types of medical expenses that are eligible to reduce taxable income.
“There have (also) been some pretty interesting government initiatives that have come out to try to help seniors and help them through this pandemic,” Thompson says.
But even without an event like the pandemic, Thompson says families should be proactive about making adjustments now after determining what their seniors may need in future.
For example, if the senior is likely to live in their own home or their child’s home, Thompson suggests having a budget to install ramps, stair lifts or an accessible bathroom.
In that case, she says, a parent’s life insurance policy could eventually be used to compensate a child who did paid for that type of expense.
Alternatively, it may be necessary to have the funds available for the senior to move into a retirement home or long-term care facility that provides more support services.
Isobel Mackenzie, the B.C. government’s seniors advocate, says each province provides some sort of subsidy for seniors in nursing homes or long-term care facility.
These types of facilities provide extensive medical support and the basics of living for people who may be physically or mentally unable to take care of themselves.
But details of who qualifies for subsidies vary by province, she adds.
“In B.C., and most provinces, it’s based on your income. Or there’s a flat fee and then there’s a discount if you have low income,” Mackenzie says.
“You do pay something towards it but everybody can afford it. It’s designed that way.”
Some provinces, but not all, provide some support for assisted living or retirement home living, which provide less medical intervention than long-term care.
“So, for example, Ontario doesn’t give any financial support for that. Alberta gives quite a bit of support. And B.C. gives some support,” Mackenzie says.
Similarly, she says, only some provinces provide funding for personal support workers for seniors who have medical or mobility needs but still live at home.
“The degree to which it’s available varies from province to province and the degree to which people have to pay for it varies from province to province,” Mackenzie says.
Ontario, for example, pays the cost of at-home visits by personal support workers.
Colin Marcus, a financial planner at YourLife Financial in Toronto, says some of his clients in their 80s now are still living independently but they’ve got the funds to make choices about where they can go if the need arises.
Often they want to avoid becoming a burden on their kids, Marcus says.
“Nobody wants to do that, either financially or emotionally or physically.”
By Christopher Reynolds
THE CANADIAN PRESS
As the summer travel season dawns, hoteliers and the broader tourism industry worry they will be hit longest and hardest by the COVID-19 crisis as confinement measures begin to lift, but travellers remain largely unwilling or unable to cross borders.
Canada’s $102-billion tourism sector, already hammered by a near total dropoff in commercial and leisure travel, hopes to salvage some business through regional trips and late-summer events.
To ride out the crunch, hotel operators are calling for a delay on debt and property tax payments while tourism groups are demanding more clarity from government on inter-provincial travel guidelines.
Downtown Toronto’s SoHo hotel, which laid off 85 per cent of its staff after closing on March 20, plans to reopen in July or August, despite reports Wednesday of an extended border shutdown with the United States until late July.
General manager David Kelley said visits to the city may creep up as restaurants and tourist attractions unlock their doors, but that “local leisure” can only generate so much business.
“The Rogers Centre, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium…with all of these things not allowed to be open, it really risks what’s going to happen this summer in terms of the leisure market,” he said.
“The big issue is, will people want to come? The one thing we can’t control is what’s in someone’s head. What’s the confidence level?”
The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario said one-quarter of its members have closed temporarily and one in three has laid off more than 75 per cent of their employees.
More than half of the 1.8 million Canadians who work in the industry have lost their jobs, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.
In Kingston, Ont., the sector has been “devastated” by the absence of sports events, music festivals and business conferences, while fixed costs such as utilities bills and property taxes remain, albeit with payment deferrals from municipal governments, said Krista LeClair, who heads industry group Kingston Accommodation Partners.
“It’s completely gone dark,” she said, with rooms selling for as low as $20 per night.
The ripple effects are severe as well.
“For inns or AirBnBs, when the larger hotels sell out those other properties benefit from trickle-down business,” LeClair said. Small businesses affected range from caterers to DJs to laundry services.
The occupancy rate of the Kingston-area accommodations sector dropped by two-thirds to 21 per cent between mid-March and mid-May, she said. About 95 per cent of staff have been laid off.
Kingston Accommodation Partners is asking the province for greater financial relief in the form of grants and loan forgiveness as well as a government directive for insurance companies to honour business interruption claims.
“It’s up to the government to either tell the insurance companies to honour the claims for business interruption insurance now, before hotels declare bankruptcy, or to implement a moratorium on mortgage payments for hotels and a moratorium on realty taxes until hotel occupancy is at 50 per cent,” said Cassie Prosper, who represents a group of Ontario hotel owners.
04 June 2020
The excerpted article was written
McCarthy Tétrault LLP
As BC begins Phase 2 of its Restart Plan, the Provincial Health Officer and WorkSafeBC (“WSBC”) have published the following orders, guidance and resources relevant to employers.
Orders by the Provincial Health Officer
On May 14, 2020, Dr. Henry issued an order cancelling her earlier April 16, 2020 order that operators close all personal service establishments and stop providing personal services in any location. Personal service establishments may open effective May 19, 2020.
On May 14, 2020, Dr. Henry enacted an order regarding workplace safety plans (the “COVID-19 Safety Plans“). Under the order, an employer must post a copy of its COVID-19 Safety Plan on its website, if it has one, and at all of its workplaces so that it may be reviewed by workers, individuals who attend the workplace and members of the public. On request, an employer must also provide a copy of its COVID-19 Safety Plan to a health officer or a WSBC officer.
On May 15, 2020, Dr. Henry issued an order allowing restaurants and bars to open subject to conditions, including implementing physical distancing measures. Patrons must be able to maintain a distance of two metres from staff as well as one another, unless they are in the same party. Further, establishments cannot exceed 50 percent of their usual capacity of patrons present at one time, and they cannot hold events that include more than 50 people. If practicable, establishments must retain contact information for one member of every party of patrons for thirty days in the event that the medical health officer needs it for contact tracing. Finally, nightclubs must remain closed. The order came into effect on May 19, 2020.
The Provincial Health Officer may take enforcement action against any party that violates these orders under Part 4, Division 6 of the Public Health Act.
The BC Ministry of Health and the BC Centre for Disease Control recently published guidance for employers and workers in various sectors, including natural resources, farming and hotels.
The guidance for natural resource sector work camps includes conducting a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment for field operations, worker education, increased hygiene and cleaning practices, physical distancing, transportation for workers, guidance for workers while working, guidance for workers during breaks or while in communal spaces, guidance for situations where maintaining physical distance of two metres is difficult, guidance on handling tools and equipment, guidance on COVID-19 and worker accommodation, information regarding First Nations and First Nations Health Centres, physical distancing and local communities, information about face masks, and what employers must do to monitor worker health.
The guidance for farms and farm workers includes conducting a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment for the farm operation, worker education, guidance for training workers and employers on hygiene, guidance for increased hygiene, guidance for increased cleaning, physical distancing, transportation for workers, guidance for workers while working, guidance for workers during breaks or while in communal spaces, guidance for situations where maintaining physical distance of two metres is difficult, guidance on handling tools and equipment, guidance on COVID-19 hygiene and worker accommodation, information regarding First Nations and First Nations Health Centres, physical distancing and local communities, information about face masks, and what employers must do to monitor worker health. The guidance acknowledges that physical distancing between farm workers may be difficult in certain situations. Where workers are required to work together in close proximity to complete tasks, employers should form work pods (of six or fewer workers, if possible) to limit close contact within a small group. Similarly, where workers are required to travel together in vehicles to the work site, workers must travel in designated vehicles with their work pod and frequently clean and disinfect vehicles.
Guidance for the hotel sector covers general cleaning, housekeeping and laundry, waste management, food and beverage services, spas and salons, pools, fitness centres and playgrounds, staff health, and communication, signage and posters.
WSBC Guidance and Resources
WSBC has recently issued guidance relevant to Phase 2, including about COVID-19 Safety Plans, controlling exposure of the virus to workers, and new communication and training requirements.
COVID-19 Safety Plans
Employers must involve frontline workers, joint health and safety committees and supervisors when creating protocols for their workplace. WSBC has published a six-step process to help employers create their COVID-19 Safety Plan. The WSBC template is a fillable PDF that employers can use to develop their policies, guidelines and procedures. Employers are not required to have a formal plan in place prior to beginning operations, but are expected to develop their COVID-19 Safety Plan while taking steps to protect their workers’ safety. WSBC will consider enforcement measures if employers fail to take measures to protect workers from COVID-19.
Employers should develop policies on who can be at the workplace, including policies on sick workers and recent travel. Employers do not have to implement health monitoring, such as temperatures checks or medical questionnaires, and should be aware of privacy issues if they choose to collect potentially sensitive medical information. WSBC notes that wearing masks is not mandatory for workers outside healthcare workplaces, and that masks and other personal protective equipment (“PPE”) should not be used as the only control measure. Instead, employers should offer the following types of protection, listed in order of greatest efficacy: i) eliminate risks (i.e. by limiting the number of workers at any one time, and enforce physical distancing), ii) implement engineering controls (i.e. installing barriers such as Plexiglas to separate people), iii) establish administrative controls (i.e. cleaning protocols) and iv) supply PPE such as non-medical masks.
Communication and Training
Employers should provide information to workers describing how they are managing COVID-19, including COVID-19 symptoms and a reminder not to go to work if workers have them, occupancy limits in common areas and other physical distancing measures, how specific tasks have been changed to prevent the potential spread of the virus, and instructions about hygiene. Employers are also responsible for training workers in tasks that they have changed as part of their COVID-19 Safety Plan, such as limits on the number of people in certain areas of the workplace and cleaning expectations for common areas and equipment. Where workplaces interface with customers, employers should consider adding signage, floor markings and other directions to ensure customers are maintaining physical distance from workers.
THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA _ Conditions in long-term care are breaking the people who staff nursing and retirement homes, leading to worse care for the vulnerable seniors who live there, the head of the Canadian Support Workers Association said.
About 82 per cent of the more than 6,800 COVID-19 deaths in Canada have been linked to long-term care, shining a harsh light on an industry that was already in crisis.
Miranda Ferrier, president of the association, said she read the military reports about cases of abuse and neglect in Ontario and Quebec long-term care homes with the same disgust and anger as other Canadians.
Military members called in to help homes with COVID-19 outbreaks witnessed some staff seemingly ignoring residents’ cries for help for up to two hours, and force-feeding residents to the point of choking, along with many other medical and professional problems.
While Ferrier said there is no excuse for that behaviour, there are reasons for it. Personal support workers are breaking under a neglected system, she said.
“I’m a (personal support worker) too and I worked in long-term care for years, and I’m broken,” Ferrier said.
Another former Ontario personal support worker, who now works as a long-term care nurse, said the massive workload means she is forced to choose which residents will be neglected.
She spoke to The Canadian Press on the condition she be granted anonymity due to fear of facing repercussions at work.
“Just to make it through the shift you have to dehumanize the people,” she said. “I have to walk past this person who’s yelling and try not to let it get to me.”
She said she and her co-workers try to do their best every day but it’s hard to look at herself knowing that she didn’t get to everyone.
“You feel like you’re drowning all day,” she said.
Many people have pointed the finger at support workers for the conditions in the homes, and Ferrier said she’s received several calls along those lines in recent days. But those people don’t understand that the workers are also victims, and have been for a long time, she said.
“They have no idea what’s going on in those homes. It’s totally unfair. I just think it’s totally unfair and it just makes me sick,” she said.
The profession is completely unregulated, workers are underpaid and typically underprepared for the huge workload, risks and mental, emotional and physical exhaustion associated with the job, she said.
“Many of them have developed post-traumatic stress disorder because of the load in long-term care, even pre-pandemic,” she said.
Statistics from the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board show support workers were six times more likely to be injured on the job than a police officer or firefighter in 2017, she said.
There’s no official accreditation needed to become a personal support worker. Most enter the homes having completed a one-year certificate program, eager to help people, but that’s difficult to do with a ratio of as many as 12 residents to one worker.
This is to say nothing of the lack of benefits and job security that has workers trying to cobble together enough hours at several long-term care homes to make a living.
That makes it hard to recruit people to the job.
“You get what you pay for, unfortunately,” she said.
It’s difficult to gather information about who these workers are, but the University of Alberta’s Translating Research in Elder Care program estimates many are immigrants or people of colour, and the jobs are overwhelmingly staffed by women.
The federal and provincial governments have stepped in to provide temporary wage increases to long-term care workers who have suddenly been deemed essential during the pandemic, but conditions have far from improved, Ferrier said.
The Canadian Support Workers Association has been trying to shine a light on the issues for years, and has called for those workers to be licensed, regulated and accredited as a step toward fixing long-term care.
Ferrier said she is now in talks with the Ontario government to create some kind of recognized regulatory body for personal support workers, but can’t say if or when the change will come.
OTTAWA _ NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says he wants to see the RCMP investigate conditions in long-term care homes in Ontario following allegations in a report of neglect and abuse in five homes being helped by the military.
Singh says he has written to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair saying the Canadian Forces’ report on the conditions they found should be referred to the RCMP and, should cases be found of corporate criminal neglect, that criminal charges should be laid.
He called the allegations “appalling” and said Ottawa must take swift actions to address the situation.
He is also calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bring the long-term care system under the Canada Health Act, blaming many of the problems in these centres on the for-profit model under which many seniors’ homes in Canada operate.
The military report, prepared after troops were sent into five homes overwhelmed by COVID-19 outbreaks, details “horrific” allegations of insect infestations, aggressive resident feeding that caused choking, bleeding infections, and residents crying for help for hours.
Allegations also included failure to isolate COVID-19-positive patients from the rest of the home and a host of hygiene issues involving everything from contaminated catheters to dangerous pressure ulcers.
The excerpted article was written
Due to COVID-19, many employers have been thrown head-first into working-from-home (WFM) arrangements for some, if not all, of their workforce. It is important that employers ensure they are meeting their obligations in these circumstances, including occupational health & safety (OHS) responsibilities and business cost reimbursement, in order to avoid liability.
Health & Safety
In WFH arrangements, the employee’s home workspace becomes an extension of the workplace and is subject to OHS legislation. An employer cannot delegate its obligation to provide a safe working environment to its employees. If an employee is injured while working at home, then the employer may be held accountable regardless of what the employee has represented about their workspace.
While ideally employers would conduct home safety inspections, alternatives include requiring employees to fill out a hazard assessment checklist and/or conducting an inspection via video conferencing.
An important part of the inspection process is for employers to assess and mitigate risks of musculoskeletal injuries (typically caused by ill-fitted equipment or harmful posture). While mitigation does not mean that employers are required to purchase office equipment for each employee to use at home, employers should provide practical tips on how to set up ergonomic work stations to prevent injuries. However, any employee requests for specialized equipment should be considered by employers on a case-by-case basis as a refusal could potentially result in OHS or human rights issues.
Further, employers are required to have a check-in system for employees who are working alone. Employers must regularly check-in with employees during their shift, including at the end of each shift, and record the results of these check-ins. Employers must also implement a procedure in the event the employee cannot be contacted, including a procedure for handling an emergency situation.
Under BC’s employment standards legislation, employers must not require an employee to pay for business costs. An employee may incur expenses as a result of WFH that they would not have normally incurred in connection with their home – for example, costs of long distance calls, software, or additional internet usage. These are likely business costs which must be borne by the employer to the extent related to employment use. However, a portion of an employee’s rent would not be considered a business cost under most circumstances.
Employers should be cautious about what employees are expected to pay for while working from home, and should consider reimbursement requests received on a case-by-case basis.
WFH arrangements can create additional complications as the employer has far less control over the workplace. Employers whose employees are working from home should consider:
- Implementing a basic policy for WFH arrangements dealing with health and safety, equipment, and business expenses;
- Ensuring employees are aware of how they can report work-related injuries;
- Having employees conduct a risk assessment of their workspace and report any hazards;
- Providing ergonomic tips for home work stations;
- Checking in with employees in accordance with OHS guidelines; and
- Ensuring employees are aware of expense reimbursement policies and procedures.
For further information, please see the following WorkSafeBC resources:
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