Canadian public pension heads call on employers to focus on coronavirus

The chief executive officers of several major Canadian pension funds have joined forces with several other CEOs to ask Canadian business leaders to make the slowdown of the spread of the coronavirus their main priority.

“International experience demonstrates that social distancing is the only effective method and is in the best interests of our employees, their families and our communities,” read the letter, originally published in The Globe and Mail. “While this will have significant economic impact on our businesses in the short term, it is critical to weathering this storm and will hasten the recovery.”

The letter urged business leaders to take several specific steps. It asked employers to ensure staff don’t travel unless absolutely essential, whether for personal or business reasons.

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It also recommended enabling employees to practice social distancing. “Facilitate work from home for all non-critical business functions,” the letter said. “Work with government, if necessary, to ensure sick pay for workers. Cancel any in-person gatherings or events. Ensure that mental-health services are in place to support those in need during a period of social isolation.”
It also suggested that companies co-ordinate with governments to develop a plan to ensure the health and safety of workers who provided essential services to Canadians.

The letter further stressed that employers step up and demonstrate leadership during these turbulent times. “Share trusted advice from public health agencies and communicate consistently and clearly with your employees. Recap the latest guidance and show them what you’re doing to support it.”

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Signatories of the letter included: Mark Machin, president and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board; Charles Emond, president and CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec; Gordon J. Fyfe, CEO of the British Columbia Investment Management Corp.; Neil Cunningham, CEO and president of Public Sector Pension Investment Board; Blake Hutcheson, president of the Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System; and Michael Latimer, CEO of the OMERS.