COVID-19 information for employees and volunteers

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Click the questions below to jump to the responses within the Live employee Q&A:

  1. With the removal of the mask mandate and forcing more staff back to work in our RTO plan, how do we plan to support our immunocompromised staff from an equity and inclusion perspective, especially considering COVID numbers are at almost an all time high?
  2. Staff would like to know why the beds/pamphlets continue to need cleaning after every donor. They report the drying time is adding time to the donation. Since we don’t wipe down other surfaces after every donor, why do we continue to need to do this?
  3. Is there going to be an updated professional development policy put in place, or will staff still be expected to use their vacation time for professional development?
  4. Is the expectation that non-management employees currently working-from-home will also be returning to office with the same expectation of a minimum of 40% of the time?
  5. My team has employees living and working from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Working from home has not and will not change how we have to interact with colleagues across the country. In fact, working in an office setting for the few employees who would be grouped together would likely have a negative an exclusionary impact on the team as a whole. Additionally, working in the office in shared spaces depersonalizes our environment, and takes away resources that we need to do our jobs effectively. At home we benefit from multiple monitors, desk set ups that are optimized and ergonomically correct, as well as the ability to take phone calls and meetings without disturbing other employees. A forced return to office will cause many good, hard working, and passionate employees to consider leaving and seeking work elsewhere for higher salaries while being able to remain virtual. Why would we even consider a return to the office?
  6. Past questions have addressed concerns about donors and the impact that the partnership with Grifols will have on our collections. Have there been any discussions in regards to the impact this partnership could have on our human resources (staffing, filling positions, etc.)?
  7. I'll preface my question by saying I'm looking forward to more in-person collaboration with colleagues! I'm wondering, however, are there specific organizational goals that we're trying to meet through the 40% RTO model? What indicators will we be looking at to measure whether this was the right move for the organization and employees?
  8. With the COVID paid sick leave being taken away, has our organization seen any detrimental effects on staff due to this? COVID has not "gone away" as many people like to say, and when we test positive with symptoms we cannot come into work until those symptoms start to improve. We cannot afford to miss work but at the same time we can't attend a clinic if we have COVID. Will the paid sick leave for this ever be reinstated?
  9. Regarding the 40% hybrid work approach, how do you envision leaders of teams located across the country modelling this behaviour? Since the pandemic hit, many employees who are not based in Ottawa have had opportunity to build relationships and gain better visibility in the virtual environment. Will there be an expectation for more travel and, if so, will there be appropriate travel budgets for those leaders to have more face-to-face time with members of their teams?
  10. Our CSR priorities indicate that climate change is one of the most critical topics and greatest potential impacts, and waste is a very important topic and high potential impact. That seems to be in conflict with bringing people back into the office - driving more contributing to climate change, wasting gas, using more electricity in buildings etc. How do we justify the environmental impact?
  11. I would estimate that since beginning to work from home in March 2020, I actually work more hours in the course of a week. Time saved commuting tends to be spent working. There is also no wasted time going between meetings. If I return to the office, these pockets of “found” time will disappear. But I worry the organization has grown accustomed to the extra productivity and will expect it to continue at the same level. How has that been factored into the planning for return to office?

What employees need to know: Your Digest

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Your digest archives

December 2, 2022

Here are the latest updates from Canadian Blood Services. Every Tuesday and Friday, we invite you to read important updates, valuable information, and inspiring stories from across our organization. Please reach out to communications@blood.ca with your questions and suggestions on how we can better inform and support you.

Here are the latest updates

Open board meeting highlights and recording

During yesterday’s open board meeting, we were reminded that what we do matters as attendees watched the inspiring video of stem cell recipient, Tom Wong, and then heard from him directly as he expressed his gratitude to donors and Canada’s Lifeline. Dr. Brian Postl, chair of the board recognized the recipients of three national awards: The Lifetime Achievement Award, Logan Boulet Award and the Schilly Award. Each honouree has made outstanding contributions in the areas of public health and in blood, plasma, stem cell or organ and tissue recruitment. CEO, Dr. Graham Sher, presented his mid-year report and we welcomed presentations from the public. If you were unable to watch live yesterday, you will be able to access the recording early next week; a link will be shared in Tuesday’s Your Digest.

Information pickets included inaccurate information

Information pickets were held on Thursday, Dec. 1 at three Canadian Blood Services locations (head office in Ottawa, Ont., Dartmouth, N.S., and Edmonton, Alta.). These pickets were organized by some external groups and were related to our recent agreement with Grifols to help increase plasma collection and have immunoglobulins made in Canada. To clarify the incorrect information being shared, we have posted a statement on our website to reiterate why we have made this agreement and what it means for patients in Canada who require immunoglobulins to live. The statement also provides links to a number of resources with more information on the work we are doing to ensure patients continue to have access to the medications they depend on.

Town hall Wednesday, Dec. 7: Call for questions

Our next live town hall event is coming up Wednesday, Dec. 7, from 1–2 p.m. ET. Guest panelists will be announced soon. Please submit questions in advance to communications@blood.ca with the subject line ‘TOWN HALL’ or use this anonymous form. You can also submit questions live during the event after joining with the meeting link in your Outlook invitation.

Anti-racism workshop recording now available

Systemic racism refers to the policies and processes of an organization or institution that result in a system that disadvantages Black, Indigenous and other racialized people. It often results in barriers to employment, justice, and social participation –– and within the health-care system, it can negatively impact access to care. Earlier this week, Osayi Ogieva, DEI manager, delivered the workshop Disrupting Systemic Interpersonal Racism, to provide employees with a deeper understanding of systemic racism and strategies to build an anti-racist workplace. In case you missed it, you can watch the recording here.

Question of the day

I want to celebrate the upcoming holidays with my colleagues and team, but I’m worried that I might unintentionally offend or leave someone out who doesn’t celebrate at this time of year. How can I observe the traditions that are meaningful to me, without being exclusionary?

The winter season is a time of year when many religious and secular holidays are observed and celebrated by people from diverse cultures, traditions, and faiths. Workplace holiday celebrations and festive decorations generally intend to spark joy and bring people together. However, traditional year-end workplace festivities or other widely accepted “norms” related to the winter holiday season can be understood or experienced by some employees as exclusionary.

As many of you may be making plans to celebrate some of the more dominant winter holidays, it is important to consider which behaviours, events or displays may leave some people feeling uncomfortable or excluded. We do not ask employees to keep their holidays or traditions separate from work, but rather, to increase their awareness of how their colleagues may celebrate and observe different holidays and celebrations.

To help support employees and leaders during this time, the DEI team has created a short guide with tips, considerations and strategies that can help create a more inclusive environment for all.

We hope you find this guide helpful, and that your most important takeaway is to navigate the winter holidays with respect, kindness, empathy and consideration for your teams, colleagues and neighbours.

We are here to support you

 

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I’m concerned about my well-being during cold and flu season. What can I do?

  • There are very simple things that you can do at work, at home, and in your community: 
    • Stay home when you are sick. If you are sick or have symptoms of illness and need to be around others at home or in your community, wearing a mask will help prevent transmission of virus.
    • Always practice good hand-hygiene. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap or use hand sanitizer.
    • Stay up-to-date with the vaccines that are available to you, including COVID-19 boosters and flu-shots.
    • Consider wearing a mask indoors if you are in close contact with others. 
  • Employees who have concerns related to workplace safety matters should discuss them with their supervisors or PCP business partner. The OHS & EHS teams (ask.ohs@blood.ca) are available to respond to any safety concerns.

Why aren’t masks mandatory?

At this time, there are no mandated changes to public health measures, and similarly Canadian Blood Services is not making any changes to requirements or policies. As we have since 2020, we will continue to monitor epidemiology and public health directives. 

Are masks available to employees, donors, volunteers and visitors?

Yes. Masks, including N95s, will still be available to staff, volunteers, visitors and donors. 

I thought we considered ourselves a healthcare setting?

Canadian Blood Services is a unique organization. Although we provide life-saving products to hospitals, we are not a hospital or healthcare setting. We consider ourselves a community setting and determined we are at a stage in this pandemic where we can shift from mandatory to optional measures. 

What if we experience another wave in the pandemic? 

We have been committed to monitoring and assessing our COVID-19 measures and we have been responsive to changing epidemiological conditions and scientific knowledge. We will continue to closely monitor the epidemiology and scientific knowledge so that we remain agile to reintroduce mandatory masks and physical distancing if necessary.

I have a health condition and will need to continue wearing a mask to protect myself. I would feel safer if everyone else around me would to.

Employees who have concerns related to workplace safety matters should discuss them with their supervisors or PCP business partner. The OHS & EHS teams (ask.ohs@blood.ca) are available to respond to any safety concerns. Any concerns related to accommodation needs related to medical considerations can be discussed with EHS Coordinators. Your well-being is a priority, and we are here to support you through this transition.  Everyone is welcome to and encouraged to continue wearing a mask and to physically distance where feasible in our sites.

I don’t feel comfortable working so close to donors who choose not to wear a mask. 

We understand that you may feel uneasy being around others who are not wearing masks. N95 masks are available to all employees and you prefer to ask for one, if you are concerned about being in close contact with others.  

Employees who have concerns related to workplace safety matters should discuss them with their supervisors or PCP business partner. The OHS & EHS teams (ask.ohs@blood.ca) are available to respond to any safety concerns. Your well-being is a priority, and we are here to support you through this transition. Canadian Blood Service has a number of programs available to help employees, including free access to licensed mental health professionals, mindfulness tools and monthly wellness workshops.  

For more information on these programs and how we are supporting employee wellbeing, visit  https://connect.blood.ca/about-you/your-well-being. 

What if I get sick with COVID-19 and need to access paid leaves? 

 Various paid leaves exist to support employees for a variety of scenarios, including sick leave, appointment leave, family leave and more. Please refer to your applicable collective agreement or non-union terms and conditions of employment. For more information on your situation and whether you are eligible for other paid sick leave, please reach out to your PCP Business Partner. 

What if we start seeing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among employees and absenteeism?

When the large spikes in positive cases resulted in employee absenteeism during the Omicron wave, we were agile and adjusted. We do not anticipate a significant increase in staff absenteeism at this stage of the pandemic. 

Various paid leaves still exist to support employees for a variety of scenarios, including sick leave, appointment leave, family leave and more. Please refer to your applicable collective agreement or non-union terms and conditions of employment. For more information on your situation and whether you are eligible for other paid sick leave, please reach out to your PCP Business Partner.  

I’m not required to wear a mask to do my job, but my role takes me into other external sites.  

If your work takes you into a setting that requires masking (for example, a hospital) we ask that you respectfully comply with that site’s requirements.

If employees, volunteers, contractors and donors decide they want to wear a mask, do they still have to wear one of ours? 

No, if anyone chooses to wear a mask, they are free to wear their own. However, surgical masks and N95s are available and we encourage people to take ours if they’d like.  

Are the acrylic barriers at our donor centres in screening, and refreshment and waiting areas remaining on site or will these be removed with these changes? 

We are assessing where we currently have acrylic barriers throughout our sites and determining where to keep them or remove them, depending on how and where they are being used. 

What if a donor asks me to wear a mask? 

It is entirely up to each individual employee to decide if they want to wear a mask when interacting with a donor.  If you decide to not wear a mask, explain that wearing a mask is a personal choice in our site at this time. The donor is welcome to wear a mask and we can also provide them with an N95 if they prefer. You may let them know that Canadian Blood Services is a fully vaccinated workplace. Evidence shows that transmission likely occurs with prolonged exposure (at least 15 minutes) and that our staff are rarely in close proximity to donors for that amount of time.

Can food and beverages be consumed anywhere within our collection events now? 

Yes, food and beverages can be consumed anywhere within our collection events. This includes the pre-donation salty snacks and water, and the post-donation refreshments. Donors are also welcome to hydrate throughout the donation process. 

Can we re-introduce coffee and foods that are not pre-packaged?

Yes, those donor events and sites that choose to serve coffee and open food again are welcome to.   

Is the rapid screening program still active? 

Yes, the voluntary rapid screening program continues to be available for any employee who works on-site. More information on the program can be found on the employee portal. 

Can we resume offering mugs to donors?

Yes, now that we can serve coffee once again, we can provide re-usable coffee mugs to donors.  

Who can I talk to if I have concerns?  

Changes to routines, especially after the last few years, can feel uncomfortable. Employees who have concerns related to workplace safety matters should discuss them with their supervisors or PCP business partner. The OHS & EHS teams (ask.ohs@blood.ca) are available to respond to any safety concerns and you can email any questions or concerns to communications@blood.ca. Your well-being is a priority, and we are here to support you through this transition. Canadian Blood Service has a number of programs available to help employees, including free access to licensed mental health professionals, mindfulness tools and monthly wellness workshops.   

For more information on these programs and how we are supporting employee wellbeing, visit  https://connect.blood.ca/about-you/your-well-being  

Q&A: General COVID-19 Information

How do I access credible information on COVID-19?

With so much misinformation out there, it is important that you have access to trusted and credible sources of information. We recommend the following sources:  

If you have a question on COVID-19 that we have not answered, please contact us at communications@blood.ca.  

What is the process of returning to work after I have been ill?

Return to work after a COVID-19+ diagnosis

Any employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 should advise Employee Health Services. Recovering employees may have COVID-like symptoms, such as a residual cough, which would normally restrict them from passing through the wellness checkpoint. Therefore, Employee Health Services will issue the employee a letter advising that they are safe to report to work. Employees should bring the EHS letter with them each time they report to work.

Return to work after COVID-like symptoms

Employees who have had COVID-like symptoms should only return to work following the applicable regional public health authority guidance. If the employee has residual symptoms that would normally restrict them from passing through the wellness checkpoint, a written declaration from their physician will need to be provided to Employee Health Services in order for a letter to be issued advising that they are safe to report to work. Employees should bring the EHS letter with them each time they report to work.

Employees with COVID-like symptoms due to another medical issue

Some employees may have COVID-like symptoms that are caused by another medical issue such as allergies or asthma. A declaration from their physician will need to be provided to Employee Health Services in order for a letter to be issued advising that they are safe to report to work. Employees should bring the letter with them each time they report to work.

If you have questions, please contact your Employee Health Services representative.

How will employees be informed if a colleague has tested positive for COVID-19?

Please visit the case management page on your COVID-19 employee portal for more information. 

What PPE and other safety measures are in place at Canadian Blood Services?

Please visit our wellness page on blood.ca and our PPE page on your COVID-19 employee portal for more information.

Is Canadian Blood Services authorizing employees to conduct personal or business travel?

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) travel health notices outline potential health risks to Canadian travelers and recommend ways to help reduce them. No matter where you plan to travel, make sure you check the Travel Advice and Advisories (TAA) page for your destination.   

We are asking employees to do their part to keep our teams, donors and operations safe. Please follow all federal and local public health guidance related to travel.  

What if I get sick with COVID-19 and need to access paid leaves? 

Various paid leaves exist to support employees for a variety of scenarios, including sick leave, appointment leave, family leave and more. Please refer to your applicable collective agreement or non-union terms and conditions of employment for a description of paid leaves. For more information on your situation and whether you are eligible for other paid leave, please reach out to your PCP Business Partner. 

Are you worried about COVID-19 spreading through the use of fans or portable air conditioners? 

The use of portable fans and portable/directional air conditioner units at fixed donor centres and mobile events should be avoided as they may spread droplets further than 2 meters. 

If temperature concerns arise at our owned/leased sites, please contact Facilities Management to respond. 

If fans are determined to be absolutely required to maintain operations, please review the Guidelines on Use of Portable Fans and Air Conditioner Units

Q&A: Collections events

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What enhanced measures are in place in our donor centres?

Although no longer required, masks are welcome in our environments and available to anyone who chooses to wear them.     

At this time, it is not mandatory to maintain six feet of distance, but  individuals may choose to consider physically distancing from others where possible while at our facilities and collection events.     

Hand sanitizer is available throughout our collection spaces.    

Before entering our facilities and collection events, everyone must review our wellness questions available at the entrance. Donors, employees/volunteers are asked not to enter if they are feeling unwell, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or said ‘yes’ to any of the questions on our wellness poster.   

High-touch surfaces are cleaned regularly and donor beds are wiped down after each use.     

Employees and volunteers at Canadian Blood Services are vaccinated against COVID-19. To help safeguard our environment, we strongly encourage all donors entering our collections events to be fully vaccinated too.     

Thank you doing your part to limit the spread of COVID-19 and for respecting each person’s choice to wear a mask or practice physical distancing.   

Why are we changing our cleaning practices?

As we continue to navigate the changing COVID-19 pandemic landscape, we constantly review and revise our safety measures and protocols. The COVID-19 Program, informed by the Surveillance Medical Issues (SMI) working group has determined that we can safely reduce some of our enhanced cleaning measures. Based on evidence, the SMI working group, made up of our medical and epidemiology experts, concluded the risk of COVID-19 transmission through surfaces is very low. Enhanced cleaning protocols implemented at the start of the pandemic were reassessed and it was determined that we can return to pre-pandemic levels of routine cleaning with the exception of a few surfaces donors touch, which will continue to be cleaned more frequently.

Are there guidelines for running a mobile clinic near the vicinity of a COVID-19 testing centre?

Yes. Please visit our guidelines for mobile clinics and COVID-19 testing sites for more information on COVID-19 testing in an adjacent site (e.g.-in a parking lot); and COVID-19 testing in the same building.

Can I reintroduce promotional items for donors in our collection events?

Yes. Promotional items can now be reintroduced in our donor environments.

Am I allowed to carpool into work?

Yes, employees can carpool to and from work using any necessary precautions they feel comfortable with, such as masking and limiting passengers. Employees should continue to follow local public health guidance and not come to work if they are sick.

Are fans allowed back in collection events? 

The use of portable fans and portable / directional air conditioner units (excluding central air conditioners) at any Canadian Blood Services site (including fixed donor centres and mobile collection events) should be avoided.  If fans are determined to be absolutely required to maintain operations, please review the Guidelines on Use of Portable Fans and Air Conditioner Units. If temperature concerns arise at our owned / leased sites, please contact Facilities Management to respond.  

Q&A: Donor snacks and hydration

What if a donor decides they do not want to consume their post-donation snack and drink inside? 

If a donor does not want to consume their snack and drink inside, they are welcome to stay and rest and will be encouraged to eat and drink when they leave the site. 

Q&A: Healthy workplace

With public health indicating that surging respiratory illness have strained the health care system, why are we asking leaders to return to in-person work at a minimum of 40% by January?

As you’ve seen in the news and heard from public health representatives, the impact of this years’ influenza season is changing daily. We need to remain adaptable to ensure that above all else, we are safeguarding the patients we serve, donors and employees.  

At Canadian Blood Services, we are seeing the impact of cold and flu season in our bookings and the health of our employees and their families. We are asking leaders to lead with head and heart and use a common-sense approach when choosing to conduct in-person work in an office or in a community space.  

Above all else, if you or your family is sick – stay home. Your in-person presence is not being monitored and you will not be penalized for doing so.  

If you are feeling well and choose to come onsite, please ensure that you are practicing good hand-hygiene, consider staying up to date with vaccines, including COVID-19 boosters and flu shots and consider wearing a mask indoors if you are in close contact with others. N95’s and rapid screening are also available for all employees coming onsite. 

Our vision for the future of hybrid work is meant to nourish and sustain our strong organizational culture of engagement and inspire collaboration with colleagues for intentional purposes. We recognize that we will need to remain nibble and adaptable with this aspiration. We will continue to monitor the situation and align our practices with guidance from public health. 

If you have questions or concerns about your personal situation, reach out to your leader or email Employee.Experience@blood.ca.  

Why are we talking about cold and flu season? Aren’t we still concerned about COVID-19?

Cold and flu season is underway earlier this year than in previous years, and in many communities, public health has indicated that surging respiratory illnesses have strained the pediatric health care system. The public is being asked to take collective action to help protect the most vulnerable in our communities and ease the strain on the health system.  

There are very simple things that you can do at work, at home, and in your community to be part of this collective action: 

  • Stay home when you are sick. If you are sick or have symptoms of illness and need to be around others at home or in your community, wearing a mask will help prevent transmission of virus. 
  • Always practice good hand-hygiene. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap or use hand sanitizer.  
  • Stay up-to-date with the vaccines that are available to you, including COVID-19 boosters and flu-shots.  
  • Consider wearing a mask indoors if you are in close contact with others.  

Are masks available if I want to wear one?

Yes. Masks – including N95s – are available to all employees, volunteers and donors, and you are encouraged to follow public health advice regarding mask wearing.

Can I wear my own mask?

Masks – including N95s – are available, however if you choose to wear a mask you are free to wear your own.

Will you consider bringing back pandemic sick leave? 

We are asking all employees to take a common-sense approach when choosing to come into a Canadian Blood Services site. Above all else, we ask that you stay home when you are sick. This helps to safeguard the health of the patients we serve, our donors and other employees. 

Although currently, we are not considering bringing back pandemic sick leave, we do have measures in place to support you when you are sick. A number of paid leaves still exist to support employees, including sick leave, appointment leave, family leave and more.  

To better understand what paid leave options are available to you, please refer to your applicable collective agreement or non-union terms and conditions of employment for a description of paid leaves. 

We recognize that some part time or contract employees may not be entitled to the same benefits as full-time employees. If this applies to you, we encourage you to reach out to your PCP business partner to discuss your situation and the options available to you, such as extra pay in lieu of sick leave. 

Employees who have concerns related to workplace safety matters should discuss those concerns with their supervisors. The OHS & EHS teams (ask.ohs@blood.ca) are also available to respond to any safety concerns.