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Sending sick employees home in Alberta:

By Representative, Employment Standards Branch |

Dean asked:

What are the rules in Alberta regarding an employee that is sick and sending her home from work as opposed to her asking to go home?

Representative, Employment Standards Branch answered:

Can you send an employee home? While legislation does not address this, the government representative answered that yes, the employer can do this as long as the employee is paid for at least three hours of work plus any additional pay as a result of your specific workplace policy for time off due to illness.

As your employee showed up to work she would be entitled to pay for a minimum of three hours — possibly more if her work contract allowed for terms beyond the minimum standards — if you decide to send her home. The government representative stressed that this pay has nothing to do with the being sent home because she was sick, but rather because the legislation requires that an employee who shows up to work must be paid for a minimum of three hours.

However, while this is a simple answer, it's also important to take into account your specific workplace policies. Of particular importance are policies - either stated or implied - around illness and sick days and how the company has handled employees in similar situations in the past.

For example, if you have always allowed the employee's co-workers to stay at work in a similar condition, but only send this one person home, you might want to at the same time introduce a policy that has clear guidelines for when an employee will be sent home and then ensure that it is applied in a consistent manner at work. That will protect you from having the employee allege that you treated her differently - or in a worst case scenario that she was 'constructively dismissed' as a result of being treated differently than other employees.

If you have any concerns about sending the employee home based on having had a different policy for other employees, I would strongly recommend that you consult with an expert: either a lawyer or HR specialist.

If your workplace does not currently have well defined policies, we have found an interesting service offered by a company called Two Grey Suits (http://www.twogreysuits.com/) that offers an HR Power Centre on an annual subscription basis. Their online resources combined with a toll-free hotline let small companies access a broad range of HR resources for the same amount they'd pay for an hour or two of consulting time from a lawyer or HR expert. 

The retail subscription price is $89.95 per module or $495 per year for access to the entire site. CanadaOne is currently exploring ways that we can bring this to our readers at a discounted rate; stay tuned if you'd like to be updated on this opportunity.

We hope that helps and that you continue to find valuable information and resources on CanadaOne!

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