We are all affected by COVID-19. As Employment lawyers we see the damage wrought by the pandemic to Employers and Employees every day. Governments are changing regulations and employment standards in an effort to mitigate damage to the lives of individuals, Businesses and the economy.
Firm Founder Lai King Hum was interviewed by HR Reporter on 6 legal questions on return to ‘new normal’.
Recent developments are changing the landscape.
When should laid-off workers be returned to their jobs?
As of June 1 in Ontario this changed. Non-unionized employees will effectively be on Infectious Disease Emergency Leave if employers are forced to temporarily reduce hours of work, including temporary layoff, due to COVID-19 until 6 weeks after the state of emergency is ended.
Is there a risk that an employee may successfully claim a constructive dismissal?
Employees will still have the right to claim constructive dismissal six week after the state of emergency ends. This change was doubtless made to allow as many people as possible to return to their jobs.
What if a worker doesn’t want to return to work for safety reasons?
This remains the most asked question by Employees. The short answer is if the business meets safety standards employers have a right to demand employees return to work. However, important exceptions exist due to age, child care or underlying conditions. Have a qualified lawyer review your situation to see what applies. We have been successful helping employees when employers improperly try to force them to resign.
I am an employer and my employees are refusing to report to work?
The challenge is many employees are scared. That is not sufficient reason to refuse to work. Employers need to demonstrate to employees that they have policies for Health and Safety. For instance, demonstrate your policies enforce social distancing, provide appropriate PPE, and directional signage. Each employees requirements differ depending on their role.
I do not want to go to work because workplace is unsafe.
Employees may have the right to refuse to work in dangerous environment. Your belief the workplace is unsafe is not sufficient reason to refuse to work. Lodging a complaint with the Ministry of Labour to assess the workplace for safety is a necessary step. If the workplace is deemed safe you must report to work. If not, you can be found to have abandoned your job. Government COVID-19 benefits may be denied. You will be unable to apply for Employment Insurance.