Crisis Working Group Think Tank Present Pandemic Return-To-Work Strategy Recommendations
Risk Management Approach Integral to Return-to-Work Strategy Says Crisis Working Group
Toronto, Ontario – To help Canadian governments confront the public health and economic crisis resulting from the spread of COVID-19, the C.D. Howe Institute has established several working groups to rapidly distill expert policy advice.
Governments must employ a risk management approach to facilitate a gradual reopening of the economy, says the C.D. Howe Institute’s Crisis Working Group on Household Income and Credit Support.
At their April 14 meeting, members agreed that ending the lockdowns and restarting the economy will require a risk management approach on the part of governments, as they balance imperatives related to public health, healthcare utilization, the economy and public finance. Members also recognized that industry can play an enormous role in offering a way forward in the return-to-work strategy.
Industry groups can play an important role in the return-to-work strategy. Different industries have different health and safety needs, structures, and challenges. The working group agreed that industry can play an enormous role in offering a way forward.
Best practices surrounding the reopening of the economy should include:
- Cooperation across governments in determining appropriate timing in lifting restrictions that may vary across regions and sectors;
- The creation of industry-specific task forces to provide insights and protocols on how to protect workers, including vulnerable groups, and how to meet the unique health and safety needs of their industry;
- Child care considerations as parents return to work and schools remain closed; and
- Continued financial support for the most vulnerable workers who are not yet able to return to work.
The working group agreed that reopening can proceed in varying ways across the country to account for regional differences. Some provinces have already started. But all provinces and regions should have contingency plans to deal with later waves of COVID-19.
Working group members also highlighted that different population groups will face different challenges when their workplaces begin to reopen and identified several population groups in need of special consideration.
The March Labour Force Survey results show that workers who are the most affected by the COVID-19 crisis in terms of layoffs and hours lost are low-wage earners and women who generally have the least bargaining power. The working group’s proposed industry-specific task forces could be responsible for setting up health and safety protocols adapted to their industries, with approval by governments where appropriate, before a lifting of the lockdowns can happen.
A time lag between children going back to school and parents going back to work will create additional challenges for parents with children when no alternative work/care arrangements are available, especially when schools are still closed. Therefore, it is important to think in advance about how child care fits into the bigger picture for working parents, and integrate these considerations into the return to work strategy.
Additionally, the group agreed on the need for special provisions for people most at risk of developing COVID-19 complications, others who may need to provide care to a family member who becomes ill, and vulnerable workers.
The proposed industry-specific task forces should consider the types of workplace accommodations that can protect the safety of the most vulnerable workers should they be required, or want, to return to work. In addition, as governments start to phase out emergency benefits, they need to start thinking about continuing financial protections for the most at-risk workers who are not yet able to return to their workplaces.
Finally, the working group noted that governments and industry can learn from the experience and best practices around the world as other jurisdictions have, or are in the process of, lifting restrictions on economic activity.
The next meeting of the Household Income and Credit Support Working Group will review progress made in the last few weeks since emergency benefits have been put in place, particularly the CERB and recent additions to the program, and potential remaining gaps. Potential areas for consideration are whether support measures in place need any refinements and adjustments, and how quickly they should be wound down.
WHO: The group of economists and business leaders is co-chaired by Michael Horgan, Senior Advisor at Bennett Jones LLP and former Deputy Minister of Finance, Government of Canada; and Kathleen Taylor, Chair of the Board at Royal Bank of Canada.
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