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Ask The Expert: Can You Make Workers Go Home If They Have Flu Symptoms?

Flu-like symptoms are grounds for barring workplace entry during the COVID pandemic.


Can we make workers who have the flu stay home and order them to go home if they don’t comply? And on what legal basis?


Yes and Yes


This flu season is different from previous flu seasons because it overlaps with the COVID-19 pandemic. The significance of this fact is that there are public health guidelines in effect giving you special authority to control who comes into your workplace. So, for example, you can—and if you’re in Ontario, must—perform medical screening on workers and essential visitors before they enter your facilities.

Yes, you’re right that flu isn’t COVID-19. However, they’re both respiratory infections. More importantly, the symptoms of flu, including coughing, fever and chills and difficulty breathing, are also symptoms of COVID-19. And if workers exhibit those symptoms, you not only can but must make them go home and self-isolate for 10 days or until their symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. And if they test positive for COVID-19 or are otherwise confirmed as having the virus, the self-isolation period increases to 14 days.

Bottom Line: Keeping workers from coming to work when they’re sick is something you should do every flu season. But this year, the imperative is even greater and employers need to be prepared to implement unusually strict measures to keep people with the flu out of the workplace.