As COVID-19 continues to move through the population, farmers should have contingency plans in place
The number of people who are contracting COVID-19 is steadily on the rise in Canada and as this figure grows, farmers will likely be affected as well.
Whether it’s their employees who get sick or farmers themselves, the chance of getting sick continues. But it’s not always an easy task for farmers to stay home from work.
However, farmers can help to lessen the spread in a few ways, said Jennifer Wright, the senior human resources advisor and stakeholder engagement specialist at the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC).
“Make sure (farmers) are providing lots of information about hand cleaning (to employees), keep the workplace clean and clean with hospital-grade disinfectant regularly. Also look at ways to make sure workers are working with a good physical distance of the recommended two metres. That's not always possible on the farm but (producers should be) doing what they can to ensure that. And make sure people aren't congregating at breaks or lunches,” she told Farms.com.
To help farmers with planning during this challenging time, CAHRC has updated its AgriHR Toolkit and made it free for producers. In this toolkit, producers can find information on HR policies, sick leave, as well as health and safety information.
CAHRC also updates its webpage regularly with information around health and safety, employment insurance and regulations surrounding temporary foreign workers. Staff are also working on a template that can act as a guide for farmers’ pandemic plans, said Wright.
And farmers should start making plans now, she said.
“Ideally, you want to have agreements with neighbours or colleagues who have their own operations to maybe see how you can get support if you are sick and unable to work. It's definitely unprecedented times that we're in and I’m hoping very few farmers end up in that situation,” said Wright.
Even though COVID-19 has brought conversations about these plans to the forefront, contingency plans are something all farmers should have in place, said Wright.
“It's something that is a real asset when you're facing something like this pandemic. You can go to your plan and have some structure around what could feel somewhat stressful and chaotic. You have already thought through the what ifs and you have a plan to respond. The plan may not be perfect … but having that foundation and that initial planning done will help in any emergency,” she said.
And farms of all sizes should have plans in place, said Wright.
“Quite often we hear, we don't have any employees – it's just my brother, his wife, myself and my wife who run the operation. … It's really important to still have HR planning in place and it's definitely very important to also have an emergency plan or pandemic plan in place as well. It doesn't matter if it's family or outside employees; you need to be prepared,” said Wright.