Can Remote Employees Relocate Without Their Employers’ Consent?
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges for employees and employers alike. With many workplaces going “remote”, some employees are weighing their options when it comes to choosing where they work. But can remote employees relocate without their employers’ consent? This article provides some considerations.
Does the Employer Have a Work from Home Policy?
When an employee is dismissed, the employment agreement and workplace policies play a crucial role in determining the termination’s validity and enforceability. Employment agreements and workplace policies spell out the duties and expectations of employees in various scenarios.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers ensured they were up to date, and implemented work-from-home policies to address the new mode of operation. These policies may have a clause which specifically addresses an employee’s relocation without the employer’s consent. If the employee acknowledged this policy and chose to relocate without their employer’s consent, their action may likely amount to a dismissal.
Employees should always carefully review their employee handbooks and company policies to ensure that they are not conducting themselves in a manner that goes against the workplace policies, as this can amount to a just cause dismissal.
What Do the Courts Say About Remote Employees Relocating Without Their Employers’ Consent?
The courts have not yet considered remote employees relocating without their employer’s consent in the context of COVID-19 and the current pandemic. The Employment Standards Act which typically addresses minimum standards in the employment context, is mute on this topic. This is a novel issue and as such, has not made its way to the courts yet. Whether or not a relocation will warrant a dismissal may depend on various factors, including:
- Whether or not there are terms in an employment agreement that apply to the relocation of remote workers
- The distance of the relocation
- If there was dishonesty surrounding the employee’s relocation
- The willingness to work with the employer to find a solution to the problem of relocating
Employees who are thinking of relocating amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and are currently working remotely, should consider whether or not there is a possibility that they may be called back to work at the employer’s physical location once society returns “back to normal”. If the employee gets notice to return to the physical location and refuses unreasonably, this could amount to a breach of the employment agreement and a dismissal.
Employees who are considering relocating amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic should weigh their options and consider working with their employer rather than sneaking around. An employment lawyer can provide advice on the scenarios which may result in a dismissal, and what an employee should be mindful of when making such decisions with respect to their employment.
If you are an employer considering implementing a work-from-home policy, or an employee who is thinking of relocating without their employer’s consent, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help.