Bannister Automotive Group Action Plan – COVID-19

To Our Staff

At Bannister Automotive Group, we are committed to doing what we can to limit the spread of COVID-19. We are also committed to ensuring we continue to meet the needs of our employees, customers, and broader community.

We are closely monitoring recommendations from both the Provincial and Federal Governments and are following their recommendations with regards to reducing the risk of spreading the virus. We will continue to be vigilant in monitoring the rapidly changing environment and will update all employees as quickly as possible if additional precautionary measures become necessary.

We are committed to doing everything we can to minimize the financial impact and ensure we are able to support our 750+ employees both today and after the immediate threat of COVID-19 has passed.

Thank you,

Bannister Automotive Group

Latest Update - May 6,2020

First, we hope you are all safe, healthy and staying strong both physically and mentally. We’ve all experienced how COVID-19 is impacting our families, our communities, business and our very way of life. While we are all navigating a new reality today, we are seeing several positive signs in BC and Alberta: our provincial and federal governments are easing restrictions, the news is upbeat with messages of the curve being flattened, we have seen a noticeable uptick in traffic to the dealerships and several of our dealerships have begun to bring back staff members who had been temporarily laid off.

Our goal for all stores is to return from this crisis better and stronger, and we are aware there remains a lot of uncertainty around economic recovery in our local markets. We continue to closely monitor our staffing levels and operational costs, and:

  • We have relentlessly worked to cut any unnecessary expenses. We will continue to trim in order to spend only the most essential dollars outside our stores while prioritizing our people.
  • We want to acknowledge the many staff members that have seen a reduction in their pay.
  • We have been tirelessly working with our banking partners to defer payments and extend terms. We want you to know, we are prepared to be here for the long term.

If you have been temporarily laid off and have questions about your status, we encourage you to contact your manager. We want to ensure you are kept up to day regarding your employment status.

Adrienne McKeller, our Director of HR, has been working hard to provide support for our staff and their families, including access to a confidential and voluntary support service designed to provide responsive counselling, consultation and information services. If you or your family members need help managing your health and well-being, please contact Adrienne at adriennem@bannisterautogroup.com or 250.860.7700.

Both BC and Alberta have designated automotive as an essential service across the Provinces. The governments have encouraged us to stay OPEN to support and serve customers’ vehicle needs, as well as keep essential service workers safely on the road.  We believe that with the size of our showrooms & shop facilities, along with strict adherence to our health & safety plans, we can provide a safe environment for all our customers and employees. Furthermore, we have:

  • Incorporated e-commerce functionality for our sales and service departments
  • Committing to pick-up and delivery services in our sales and service departments.

To date, we have had no known cases of Covid-19 at any of the dealerships.  This is fantastic news, and you are all to be commended for executing our health and safety plans, which include:

  • Clearly marked signage and guidelines
  • Strict physical distancing
  • Plentiful hygiene protocols with sanitization stations
  • Dedicated team members sanitizing all public spaces multiple times each day

The dealerships are as clean as they’ve ever been, and we want to thank everyone for making this all happen. We continue to receive guidance from the Canadian government, Health Canada, Alberta and BC Centre for Disease Control and the Canadian Automotive Dealers Association, and will adapt our plans accordingly.

We have seen so many examples of strength, hard work, kindness and generosity throughout the dealerships. It is humbling to witness, and you have our unwavering commitment to see us all through this time. We want to thank every single member of the Bannister and Mertin teams: whether you’re isolating at home, taking care of your family and loved ones, supporting your kids or working on our “front lines”:

Thank you.

Bannister Family
Partners of the Bannister Automotive Group
General Managers of the Bannister Automotive Group

Preventative Measures

 

We will continue to follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation for self-protection and will ensure the necessary processes are in place for following these recommended steps:

Clean hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place or washroom, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

All employees need to be vigilant and watch for symptoms and emergency warning signs

  • If you or a member of your family are sick or showing early warning signs of illness please do not report to work and let us know of your situation.
  • Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.
  • If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs*:
    • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion or inability to arouse
    • Bluish lips or face

*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning.

Our Dealership Management teams will be responsible for ensuring that recommended Health and Safety process are followed.  This includes but is not limited to:

  • Community Safety messages and personal hygiene posters will be posted in all common areas throughout each dealership,
  • In addition to our regular cleaning schedule there will be increased sanitization of all high-traffic area touchpoints within all dealership’s multiple times a day. (credit card machines, countertops and other regularly used office equipment will be sanitized after each use,
  • Loaner vehicles, shuttle cars, and test-drive vehicles will be prepared and sanitized on an ongoing basis. This will include cleaning of all surfaces inside each car. This will be completed each time a guest or staff member uses a vehicle, and
  • As outlined in the preventative measures listed above, employees are required to practice frequent hand washing and refrain from handshaking.

 

Staff Health & Safety

We are also aware of the additional uncertainty and stress this situation may be causing our employees and we are working hard to support when and where we can. We ask that in addition to taking the recommended ‘stay healthy’ steps above that employees try to remain positive and educate themselves with the facts - social media and news outlets can amplify misinformation. Keep in mind that there's a concerted global effort to try and contain this virus, and the World Health Organization is maintaining a webpage with answers to common questions (see link at the bottom of this document).

Employees who have accrued vacation time available and would like to take this time away from work are asked to review vacation options with their Manager. We will be happy to accommodate any reasonable request

We understand that this is an unprecedented and stressful time for all our employees. If you would like to self-isolate at this time, please discuss your leave request with your department manager.

In looking after the Health and Safety of our employees, we strongly recommend that any employees that are considered to be in the higher risk category self-isolate immediately.

High risk individuals include but may not be limited to the following:

  • Older adults
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease

During this critical time the government of Canada has made temporary changes to the requirements for Employment Insurance sickness benefits.  If you are sick or have been advised to self-isolate, you may be entitled to receive benefits. Please visit https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html or contact Service Canada directly at  Telephone: 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free) for more information.

Guidance if leave is required due to COVID-19 exposure or illness: In order to reduce the risk to all our stakeholders, we ask that employees and their families take all necessary precautions when seeking medical attention.   Those with medical concerns associated with COVID-19 should first contact their doctor’s office by phone in order to determine whether an in-person appointment is required. For medical guidance prior to visiting your doctor’s office or emergency room it is recommended that you call 8-1-1. Due to the risks associated with COVID-19 It is imperative that we all follow the advice of qualified medical professionals.

The BC Government has released a tool for self assessment, found here:

https://covid19.thrive.health/

If you or a member of your household experience flu-like symptoms, please do not report for work e.g. cough, fever and difficulty breathing.

Before reporting to work employees must:

  • Call their Manager at the earliest possible opportunity to report they have flu-like symptoms. They must not return to the work until cleared to do so.
  • The employee’s Manager will contact the dealership Controller to provide any additional documentation(s).
  • Call their medical provider to determine whether additional precautionary measures are required, or if they are fit to return to work.  Employees will need to provide a description of their or their family members symptoms, timelines and, if applicable, recent travel destinations. Employees may be required to provide verbal authorization to their physician to release limited personal information to our benefits provider, verifying time off is required due for COVID-19 screening or treatment.
  • Update your Manager regularly.
  • Report any diagnosis of COVID-19 for the entire household.
  • For those exposed or being treated for COVID-19, Medical clearance will be required prior to return to work.

For employees with immediate family members who have symptoms consistent with flu, including COVID-19 (e.g. cough, fever and difficulty breathing), before reporting to work employees must:

  • Contact medical provider (physician, local clinic or 8-1-1) for directions on how to proceed.
  • Call their Manager at the earliest possible opportunity to report the exposure and request time off.
  • Report the medical findings back to their Manager.
  • Report if they become symptomatic and follow steps 1 to 3 above.
  • Given the ongoing changes that are occurring we may need to adjust or amend these recommendations with little notice.  Please stay current

At this time, I would like to thank you all for all your support and for your efforts in mitigating the current situation. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide you with timely updates. As shared previously, please find below links to resources that may be useful in helping you navigate through this challenging time.

 

Job Security, Benefits, and Human Resources

We have had a number of Short-Term Layoffs take place through out our dealerships and corporate office. These short-term layoffs are planned and executed to ensure we meet the rapidly changing needs of our business. Although we are unsure of how long these layoffs will be for, we are making every effort to ensure we are supporting all our employees.

You can start your application here: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-regular-benefit/apply.html

In order to support our employees continued health and mental well-being, all eligible employees will have their benefit coverage continue. In an effort to lesson your finical burden during this trying time, we will continue to pay both the employer and employee portions for this coverage. Please note that as per our providers restrictions, this coverage will not include Short Term or Long-Term disability, and is subject to regular BAG feasibility reviews.

Employees that are paid based on commission will be paid mimimum-wage for their hours worked if they did not exceed that in commission.

Many banks and lenders are rolling out programs to provide relief to their clients. We strongly recommend contacting your bank or lender to review your account and discuss a deferral.

We are aware of the announcement, and while we don’t have any clear answers right now, we expect to receive more details into early next week.  

At this time we are not paying out accrued vacation. There are several reasons for this.

The current layoffs are temporary and by definition not a vacation, which is an important distinction that limits what we can do as an employer. As part of Employment Standards, employees must be paid as well as have time away form work for vacation. Additionally, any accrued vacation paid would have to be claimed as earnings and would impact any applicable Employment Insurance payment.

It is our intent to continually monitor the current situation and transition employees back to work as soon as possible. We encourage you to stay in touch with your department Manager and follow the employee page for updates.

All Records of Employment are filed electronically with Service Canada. If you are laid off you can start the claims process immediately by logging in and creating an account;

https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/ei/ei-list/ei-roe/access-roe.html

After your account is created you will get all the information and communication required through your newly created ROE web account.

Your sign in information and GC key code are private information between yourself and Service Canada. We do not have any access or code information. Please contact Service Canada if you are having difficulty creating  or accessing your account.

 

If you have been temporarily laid off, yes, you are part of a group lay-off, the result of business impacts of COVID.

We do not have specific projected dates for laid-off employees to return to work. While we have started to see some of our business return and some employees returning to work, this varies widely across the group. We will continue to assess the market, follow public health guidelines and call back employees based on business needs. Please reach out to your manager for additional information regarding your department and possible timelines.

Keeping our Workplace Healthy

Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets that are spread when you cough or sneeze
  • close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

A mask does not fully eliminate the risk of illness. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of an illness that spreads through the air, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the infection to others. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading around you when you cough or sneeze. If you have symptoms that would prompt you to wear a mask please do not report for work and contact your manager right away.

While experts believe that spread from a person who is asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms) is possible, it is as-yet unknown exactly how long before symptoms are presented a person can be considered contagious. What we do know for certain is that COVID-19 is being spread through close contact with a person who is showing symptoms (symptomatic cases).

In managing the workplace safety risks from COVID-19, there is a requirement for a form of confirmation that the isolation period or the illness is resolved. This can be provided by any of the public health or other health care providers already supporting the absent employee.

If an employee is presenting symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath), managers should have the employee leave the work site immediately and consult with their health care provider. Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness must stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever and other symptoms for at least without the use of fever-reducing or symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Currently we would recommend that if you are showing any signs of illness that you take the precautionary measure of self-isolation for 14 days.  

Speak with your manager about your concerns. Do not confront the employee on your own.

As your employer, Bannister may ask you for a doctor’s note or other health information as needed for leave, worker’s compensation, or disability benefits. This information will remain strictly confidential.

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Contact Us

Have questions that aren't addressed here?
Want to speak to someone directly?
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Adrienne McKellar
Human Resources Director, Bannister Automotive Group
adriennem@bannisterautogroup.com
250.448.2241