Sport Law & Strategy Group Shares Helpful Tips During COVID-19 – Update 9

The SLSG is hosting weekly “Conversation Matters: You Ask, We Share” where we spend an hour with sport leaders from across the country sharing information and responding to questions on employment, insurance, leadership, financial management, grief management, and other matters related to managing through COVID-19. The free, online drop-in session hosted by SLSG Partners Steve Indig and Dina Bell-Laroche will remain flexible, based on your questions, and hopefully leave sport leaders feeling informed and inspired to put in place measures to deal with the stuff that is  keeping you up at night. As needed, we are also inviting members from our team or other thought leaders who can help sport leaders make better decisions. Thanks to Will Russell, Labour and Employment lawyer, for providing valuable information to deal more effectively with operational challenges due to COVID related disruptions:

  • Steve reminded us to ‘hurry up and slow down’, encouraging sport leaders to not rush into any decisions with so much still up in the air. Some of the latest thinking includes:
    • Ensure you are having legal counsel review your Return To Sport strategies.
    • The insurance industry is also becoming more reflective and after having numerous discussions with our insurance partners, we know they are re-thinking what will and won’t be covered in the future. We believe that sport organizations will need to demonstrate their adherence to good business practices including meeting minimum legal requirements and implementing higher standards of care through the adoption of good policies and procedures, particularly if insurance is not applicable or excluded.
    • With respect to waivers, we are recommending that our clients add a COVID-19 clause in their waivers and assumption of risk documents, and request that returning participants sign a Declaration confirming they understand the risks of returning to sport in a pandemic environment, have not been exposed to COVID-19 (or if so, 14 days have past) and are not experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms. An interesting but unsettling realization is the number of sport leagues and organizations that are not incorporated and therefore not protected by the Corporate Shield. This means that Directors would be on the hook for any litigation arising out of COVID-19 related claims, or any tort claim for that matter.
  • Our special guest Will Russell had the following insights to share:
    • Ensure that you are prepared to bring your people back safely. Conduct a hazard assessment in your workplace and develop strategies to mitigate these risks. Appoint a Return to Work team to review and update your current policies and practices to reflect the current circumstances.
    • Anticipate ‘friction points’ within your staff. There will be varying attitudes about the risks posed by COVID and returning to work. Some employees will be fully ready to come back to work while others may be anxious about the prospect of returning.
    • Employers have a duty to accommodate on a wide range of grounds. An area of potential concern is accommodations based on family status, including childcare obligations. While employers are required to accommodate to the point of undue hardship, they do not have to accommodate employee preferences. Every situation must be assessed individually.  Be sure to document your process.
    • We can anticipate an increase in mental health needs - ensure your organization has reviewed and communicated your policies and identify any employee assistance programs available to your employees.
    • If an employee refuses to return to work, be considered in your response. Work with your employee to understand their reasons for refusing to return to work – underlying a refusal may be issues that you have to accommodate, such as previously undisclosed medical conditions. Moving too quickly to discipline an employee may expose your organization to liability. Know your recall obligations under employment standards legislation.
    • Generally speaking, employers have an obligation to provide a reasonable level of protection for employees at work. Review applicable occupational health and safety legislation to determine your obligations and if you are required to have an OHS committee.
  • Dina reminded people to consider the following:
    • Consider your organizational values, the risks of, and the risks of not, making a decision, and communicating proactively to your various stakeholders to keep them updated. Your commitment to be transparent will help to increase trust and keep people informed.
    • Consider what you want your stakeholders and employees and volunteers to say about how you managed through this great disruption. Begin with the end in mind and let that guide your decision-making.

You can access previous webinars or join our next Conversation Matters: You Ask, We Share! on June 3 at 12:00 PM EST where Dina will be joined by Jackie Buckingham of Canada Artistic Swimming and Kim Van Bruggen of Triathlon Canada, two extraordinary CEOs to speak about the importance of emotional intelligence and the benefits of using the EQ-i and the EQ 360 to increase awareness and inspire change.

Flow: Each conversation will begin with the SLSG Partners welcoming everyone and offering a few comments on something topical that is affecting the sport community. We will then move into providing listeners with an opportunity to ask a question or share a perspective that they would like some advice on. Dina and Steve will create a safe and engaging environment for the listeners to address some very specific topics that will most certainly benefit the entire group.

The Sport Law & Strategy Group has been providing strategic insight to the Canadian sport community since 1992. We offer a full range of management consulting, leadership development and legal services to the Canadian sport community. We are accessible, affordable, highly skilled, and we bring experience and common sense to every project. Our mission is to help you achieve yours. To learn more about us please visit www.sportlaw.ca. For more information please contact Dina Bell-Laroche at 613-591-1246 or 613-294-4118 or DBL@sportlaw.ca.

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