Richardson International has clarified it intends to pay employees forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19 concerns, provided they did not travel after federal restrictions were announced March 16.
“Currently that is our intention,” said Jean-Marc Ruest, senior vice-president for corporate affairs and general counsel at Richardson International, a large agribusiness company based in Winnipeg.
The Manitoba Co-operator reported Tuesday that an internal memo to Richardson staff, dated March 13, indicated that any staff subject to self-quarantine would be required to take unpaid leave or use holidays or flex days.
“Obviously it wasn’t as clear as it should have been,” said Ruest.
He said that any staff who travelled prior to the March 16 restrictions would be paid if required to self-isolate.
While there are yet no known cases of COVID-19 unrelated to travel in Manitoba, Ruest acknowledged that may eventually be the case. Employees forced to quarantine because of community-spread COVID-19 should also be paid, Ruest said.
However, he added that if operations grind to a halt because of the pandemic, paying staff may not be possible.
“This is a very fluid situation. We can’t possibly come up with a policy that’s set in stone,” he said.
Earlier in the week, the Co-operator asked Richardson to clarify if workers would go unpaid if they were quarantined, or if they might be eligible to sick time. The company did not directly respond to these questions.
In an emailed statement earlier Tuesday, the company said “The health and well-being of our employees and our customers are our top priority. With this in mind, we are taking measures to limit the spread of the disease in our workplaces. As the situation around COVID-19 continues to evolve, we are following the guidelines provided by governments and public health agencies and are making informed decisions to navigate through these challenging times.
“Because we are an agricultural company and food manufacturer, we have an obligation to continue to operate our facilities to service customers around the world, while being mindful of the health and wellbeing of our employees. We will continue to operate our head office, agribusiness locations, plants, and terminals to the best of our ability.”