Health and safety

Business Planning During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 25, 2020

To help businesses prepare for and manage during the current public health crisis, we have developed a brief guide to assist business planning and continuity efforts. This guide addresses some situations we've been hearing about.

I need to temporarily lay off employees

  • Develop a communication strategy to ensure that employees are aware of business changes and that you can remain in contact with them during this time.

  • Review employment contracts and jurisdictional requirements, keeping in mind that we are currently operating in an unplanned emergency situation, so normal practices may not apply the same way.

  • Determine whether you will continue to provide health and dental benefits during the temporary layoff. If possible, it is encouraged to continue to provide these benefits

  • Contact your benefits provider to see how life, long-term disability, and other insurance will be affected during a temporary layoff.

  • It is not necessary to pay out vacation accounts during a temporary layoff. As a best practice suggestion, you may want to let employees know what is available within their account, so that they can request to use vacation before the temporary layoff.

  • Prepare a Record of Employment for each affected

    • Use Code A: Shortage of Work; and

    • Select Unknown for return-to-work date.

  • HRdownloads' Notice of Temporary Layoff template may help you draft the communication.


Some of my employees are under quarantine or self-isolation requirements.

  • In these cases, the business should consider any affected employee to be on sick leave.

  • Let the employee to use any available paid sick leave.

  • If paid sick leave is unavailable, issue a Record of Employment
    (ROE) to those employees.

    • Use Code D: Illness; and

    • Within comment include “employee is under quarantine or self-isolation.”

  • Benefits need to remain active and in place during sick leaves.

  • Develop check-ins with the employee. Keep them informed on changes within the business.

  • If a temporary layoff is necessary after the period of quarantine or self-isolation, an amended ROE will need to be issued changing the reason.

  • We have answered some questions regarding Record of Employment in our blog post on Record of Employment (ROE) Challenges During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I need to implement remote work.

  • Review security requirements to ensure that your business information is protected

  • Review work practices to determine which ones may be affected. For example, client phone calls, banking, incoming mail, invoice payments. Set up strategies or new processes.

  • Develop communication messaging for your clients and vendors so that they know how to connect with your business.

  • Have employees sign out any company equipment that they take home.

  • Provide relevant policies to employees, like security, confidentiality, Internet, and remote access.

  • Develop and implement strategies to ensure regular communication. Consider morning meetings and end-of-day updates.

  • Download our Working from Home Policy template if you let your employees work from home


What are some creative strategies to consider? I want to help my employees.

  • Consider offering a small salary advance to employees who will be temporarily laid off, with the written agreement that upon return to work they will repay the advance through payroll deduction.

  • Consider offering voluntary temporary layoffs if your business isn’t considering laying off all employees. This option may enable employees to collect Employment Insurance during a time when they are not comfortable coming into work.

  • Consider talking to employees about reduced hours or job-sharing, so that more employees remain employed with a flow of income during this time.

  • Consider looking at new ways to complete work. For example: virtual sales meetings instead of in-person, video or online training, online or telephone orders, and doorstep delivery versus visiting the business.

  • Download our Digital Literacy Guide to help ensure your employees have the right digital skills


What if this lasts longer and I need to revise my plan?

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Looking for more information?

HRdownloads is here to support your business as questions arise and circumstances continue to change. Layoffs, Employment Insurance (EI) claims, benefits, and entitlement are all topics employers are starting to think deeply about, but that's raised a number of questions. Get answers in our recent blog post: Questions about COVID-19 are not getting any easier, but we have answers.

As the pandemic continues to progress, we will continue to update our blog as frequently as possible to provide you the resources and answers you need. 

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