Responding to the Novel Coronavirus (2019) Pandemic

Like others in the Great Lakes region and Toronto, we’ve been closely monitoring the Novel Coronavirus 2019 situation. With the pace the situation has evolved since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, we can assume that things will continue to change rapidly in the weeks and months ahead.

In order to stay safe as workers and community members during this we've drafted this document, which contains our pandemic-specific policies and guidance, resources, and information on business and personal supports for responding to COVID-19. It was last updated on May 20, 2020.

Working in the Time of COVID-19

As a remote-first organization with many member-owners additionally working outside Hypha we occupy a slightly unique position. On the one hand our own work can transition to a work from home (WFH) strategy, but the continuity of Hypha work may have additional impacts we should be mindful of.

After a process of research, consultation, and review of our requirements as an employer, Hypha has adopted the following policy to protect ourselves as member-owners and to protect the communities we serve:

  • Member-owner's work should continue from home/safe environments
    • Client work and internal meetings will continue as virtual meetings
    • Work-related travel or professional gatherings/onsite meetings will be moved to virtual hosting or be rescheduled to a time when public health officials have deemed it safe to do so
    • Due to the nature of our work (virtual office, remote) we are not providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at this time
  • Member-owners should take care of the health (including mental health) of themselves and their loved ones first
    • We encourage all member-owners to take the time they need right now, it's not business as usual
    • You are your own best judge of how much client work you can take on and track during this time
    • Please communicate and be proactive to other member-owners around shifting work and deadlines

Communication and Education

Any questions and concerns should be brought to the Operations WG and our main coordinator for internal COVID-19 is Dawn, who you can also contact directly.

We will have COVID-19 check-in as a standing item at all hands to address any questions and provide updates.

Health and Safety Considerations

All employees have the right to refuse unsafe work, specifically, work that would endanger your immediate or long term health or that of another worker (Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, Section 43). See the poster on our Health and Safety Bulletin Board.

As an employer we recognize/commit to the following:

  • Our duty is to provide the safest workplace for our employees (and our communities)
  • We follow public health guidelines on preventing COVID-19 spread though social distancing
  • We will honour our employment agreements
  • We will be responsive to member-owners needs in implementing additional measures

Social Distancing and Self Isolation

  • We strongly encourage employees to follow public health guidelines on precautions including social distancing and self isolation, for most up to date information please visit Toronto Public Health and Ontario Ministry of Health. Please note: Toronto has stronger guidelines than the Province of Ontario
  • For employees in different jurisdictions, we encourage you to follow the guidelines relevant to your locale

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Due to the virtual nature of our workplace, we are not currently providing PPE, which serves as "droplet and contact" controls
  • For those working in non-healthcare settings PPE takes the form of access to hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gloves, and surgical/cotton masks. Public health literature identifies PPE controls as "the last tier in the hierarchy and should not be relied on as a stand-alone primary prevention program" source

Assessing Symptoms, Seeking Testing, Treatment, and Quarantine

  • If you suspect you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has it, use the Ontario self-assessment tool to determine how to seek further care: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment/
  • If you need to seek testing to determine whether you have COVID-19, you are able to do so and are highly encouraged to seek it
    • We encourage you to seek testing if you suspect you have COVID-19
    • While awaiting results, Hypha will respect quarantine and self-isolation protocols and encourage you to follow them
    • If there is a way Hypha can assist with material aspects (e.g., delivering stuff) let Operations WG know
  • If you fall ill or are diagnosed with COVID-19 you do not have to work and are highly encouraged to take the full time off
    • Hypha does not have a formal sick leave policy and you are able to take unlimited sick leave for yourself or to care for someone else with COVID-19
    • Hypha does not yet provide benefits, we recognize this could put our employees at a disadvantage at this time, if there are ways Hypha could support, let Operations WG know
    • We ask you to be proactive and communicate your availability with Operations WG as soon as possible, especially if you are responsible for critical processes (e.g., Finance WG, lead on client project)

Business Continuity

Ontario has declared (March 17) and extended (March 30), twice (April 14), thrice (May 19) a Declaration of a provincial emergency and associated emergency measures, including the closure of non-essential workplaces and restrictions on social gathering, until May 29.

Are we considered an essential workplace? No, though we do not maintain a physical workplace. The closest business listed by the province of Ontario is "17. Information Technology (IT) services" Regardless, the province explicitly indicates "teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses."

The Province has released A framework for reopening our province (April 27) which describes three stages to gradually reopen all workplaces and public spaces.

Risks and Maintaining Critical Processes

Three risks to our critical processes and our approach to maintaining them:

  1. An employee tests positive, gets sick, or starts taking care of someone who is sick.

    • This leads to Hypha not having people to do the work we committed to. Our initial approach to handling this includes:
      • having per-client conversations on projects with "single leads" as needed
      • developing readiness within Hypha to hire contractors
    • This leads to employees responsible for critical organizational processes (e.g., Finance WG for invoicing and payroll) not being present. Our initial approach to handling this includes:
      • ensuring access to financial systems (e.g., Banking, TransferWise, Wagepoint) and knowledge to use them is distributed beyond single point of failure
      • reviewing the documentation we have and identifying areas for improvement
  2. Our self-hosted virtual office infrastructure (e.g., Jitsi, Loomio, chat, email) goes down and Infra WG and/or key members who maintain it are unreachable, or we do not have physical access. Our initial approach to handling this includes:

    • ensuring access and control is distributed beyond single point of failure
    • reviewing the documentation we have and identifying areas for improvement
    • identifying physical location of servers hosting services
  3. No client work comes in and we experience a loss of revenue that severely impacts our projected revenue and ability to cover year-end organization expenses. Our initial approach to handling this includes:

    • committing to offer ROEs to furlough employees to access EI/CERB individually
    • applying for federal SME COVID-19 supports, including BCAP and payroll subsidies
    • ensuring Hypha is equipped to enter hibernation mode

Accessing Federal and Provincial Supports

  • Co-ops should be eligible for every program, including work-sharing, wage subsidies, and access to credit
  • CRA is basically closed right now (as of 2020-04-01), so long turnaround times for responses

For business:

  • Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan
  • Wage subsidies up to 75% (details announced 2020-04-01)
  • Enhancing the Work-Sharing Program to help businesses pay wages (up to 76 weeks)
  • Helping businesses with cash flow by deferring tax payments until August 31st
  • Access to credit (Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP))
    • Working with our current financial institutions
  • Helping businesses with cash flow by deferring tax payments until August 31st
  • WSIB financial relief through deferral of dues

For employees, employment-related support from Federal government:

  • Unemployed
  • Sick, quarantined, or in in directed self-isolation
  • Unable to work
  • Others:
    • Increasing Child Benefit
    • Special Goods and Services Tax credit payment
    • Extra time to file income tax returns
    • Mortgage support
    • Indigenous Community Support Fund
    • Enhancing the Reaching Home initiative
    • Women's shelters
    • Reduced minimum withdrawals for RRIF
    • Moratorium on repayment of Canada Student Loans

*Note: CERB eligibility critera are: 1) Had a total income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or the 12-month period preceding their application date; 2) Stop working for 14 consecutive days within the four-week period for which they apply for the CERB (it appears that applications must be renewed every four weeks) for reasons related to COVID-19; 3) Do not receive any income whatsoever during those 14 days; and, 4) Did not stop working voluntarily.

Relevant Information and Resources

Public Health Information

Co-operative Resources

  • CWCF: Presidents Message and Resources
    • Tenacity Works fund converted into emergency fund for up to $20,000 fund, start by applying to federal support
    • Technical Assistance grant program converted into survival planning fund, up to $2000 for expert help
    • Larger succession planning project
    • CWCF-hosted Loomio, email communications@canadianworker.coop to join
  • OCA: Information and Support for Co-operatives on COVID-19

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