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Is this the Right Time?

Unsettled, uncertain, stressed, fearful. Many of us are feeling a range of emotions during this time. The emergence of COVID-19 has put us in a place that is often described as unprecedented. Our home lives, work lives and our communities feel unfamiliar and strangely unsafe. But what if these words described your work or team environment before COVID-19?

Many employees are now working remotely from home. For some, working from home may have brought a bit of a reprieve from the situation. For others, working remotely has added more strain to an already challenged team dynamic. The thoughts of returning to an unresolved work dynamic may be causing additional stress. Leaders find themselves struggling to determine the best path forward. If any of these descriptions apply to your workplace, please know that you are not alone.

Employers are working hard to maintain productivity and balance their obligations under various workplace policies while simultaneously navigating the complexities of the current pandemic. Our clients often reach out to us to ask if now is the right time to conduct a workplace assessment or investigation to address workplace conflict or a complaint. Our answer often is “it depends”.   Here are some key factors to explore if you are wondering whether this is the right time to proceed:

Health and Safety: Are employees safe in the current work situation?

Access to Supports: Can staff access support services in a timely way? Can you provide employee and family assistance programs remotely?

Employee’s Current Home Environment:

    • Who else may be in the home right now; children, partners, aging parents?
    • What is the work status of others in the home?
    • What is the employee’s level of wellness or that of others in the home?

Location of Assessment or Investigation: Will you engage the employee remotely from their home or at a designated workspace?

    • If at home, do individuals have access to a computer and a headset? Can privacy and confidentiality be assured?
    • If at a designated site, how will the meeting space and equipment be disinfected in between participants? How will social distancing be maintained?

Supporting employees through the process:

    • Are you able to provide clear communication to employees about the workplace assessment or investigation; including the purpose, process and expected timelines?
    • Do employees have access to a support person such as a union representative, HR personnel or a trusted friend?

Mandated timelines:

    • Are you required by legislation or internal policy to conduct an investigation or take a positive step within a certain period of time?
    • If not, does procedural fairness require that the matter be dealt with promptly?

HR Atlantic consultants are here to help you navigate through these challenging and extraordinary times. Together we will find a way forward.


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HR Atlantic is proud to present weekly publications connected to COVID-19. Please feel free to contact us to further discuss this article or any concerns you or your business may be facing during these difficult times.


Written by:
Patsy MacLean, Q.C.                         Jennifer Innis
Senior Counsel, HR Atlantic           Consultant, HR Atlantic

Published: May 2020
All rights reserved.