Remote Work: The Impact on Employment Law in Ontario
As the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an increase in remote workplaces, employment lawyers can play a key role in helping both employers and employees navigate any issues that can arise.
Remote work, often referred to as work from home, is a work arrangement in which employees fulfill their job duties outside a traditional in-office environment. Offering work from home can provide a number of benefits for employees, including more flexibility and reduced commuting costs. For employers, remote working offers access to a larger talent pool, and reduced overhead.
This article answers common legal questions about remote working in Ontario.
Can Your Employer Force You To Come Back To Work In The Office After Working Remotely?
During the pandemic, many employees in Ontario transitioned to remote work. However, since health restrictions have lifted, employers may seek to bring employees back to the office. The ability of employers to change an employee’s work location depends on the terms outlined in the employment contract.
Employers generally have the right to determine where employees work, as specified in the contract. If the contract allows for remote work but specifies a geographic location, the employee may have the flexibility to change the work location within the specified area.
However, employees who do not object to changes made by the employer can be deemed to condone or accept those changes as part of their employment agreement.
If you cannot work in-person for health reasons based on your doctor’s advice, your employer must accommodate you to the point of undue hardship. Your employer may ask you to provide a medical note to support your accommodation request.
If your employer fails to accommodate your disability, you may have a claim against your employer under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code) for discrimination.
If an employee has been working remotely for an extended period, they may argue that remote work became a fundamental term of their employment, making it a breach of their employment agreement to require them to return to in-person work.
The employee’s ability to refuse in-person work depends on the terms specified in the employment contract. It is always a good idea to consult with an employment lawyer to determine what options are available to you based on your unique circumstances.
Can Remote Employees Relocate Without Their Employers’ Consent?
Remote work provides employees with the flexibility to relocate to different locations. However, whether an employee can shift locations without notifying their employer largely depends on their employment agreement and company’s policies.
During the pandemic, some employers introduced work-from-home guidelines that include provisions about employee relocations. If an employee decides to move without obtaining permission and contravenes these policies, they may face disciplinary action.
The geographical location of an employee is an essential factor in remote work setups because it can have legal and tax consequences for both the employer and the employee.
In terms of remote work and employee relocation, the following factors should be taken into account:
- Work-from-home guidelines: Companies may enforce specific rules related to employee relocations. It’s important to review and understand these conditions set by your employer.
- Employment contracts and policies: Employees should review their employment agreements and company’s policies to comply with any clauses about work relocation.
- Provincial employment laws: The law of the province where an employee physically performs their duties may govern the employment relationship. Hence, it’s imperative to comprehend the applicable employment standards.
- Legal and tax consequences: There might be differences in employment standards and tax responsibilities between provinces. It is important to understand these before relocating.
- The employer’s right to know: In general, employers have the right to set the work location as part of your employment contract. However, this does not mean an employer can make significant changes without your consent to where you are working in all cases.
- Penalties for not disclosing: Employees who neglect to inform their employer about their remote work location might face negative repercussions, including disciplinary measures if their actions go against company policies.
Employees contemplating relocation during their remote employment should thoroughly examine their agreements and company’s rules.
Is Relocation a Form of Constructive Dismissal?
How an Employment Lawyer Can Help Understand Remote Work Rules
Employment lawyers are a valuable resource when it comes to navigating the intricacies of remote work in Ontario. Here are several ways in which they can provide assistance:
- Contract and policy review: Employment lawyers can thoroughly review employment contracts and workplace policies to clarify the rights and obligations of both employers and employees regarding remote work.
- Accommodation advice: They can provide guidance on accommodations for employees with health or family-related needs, ensuring compliance with the Code.
- Negotiating remote work arrangements: Employment lawyers can assist employees in negotiating remote work arrangements with their employers, helping to find mutually beneficial solutions.
- Pursuing entitlements: If an employee is terminated due to remote work-related reasons, such as refusing to return to the office, an employment lawyer can help assess the situation and pursue any entitlements the employee may be owed.
- Drafting employment agreements: Employment lawyers can assist in drafting employment agreements that address remote work and work location issues, ensuring clarity and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.
By seeking the guidance of an employment lawyer, both employees and employers can navigate the complexities of remote work in Ontario with confidence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of remote workplaces.
Employment lawyers can play a key role in helping both employers and employees navigate any remote working issues. They can help with reviewing contracts and policies, advising on accommodations, negotiating remote work agreements, pursuing entitlements, and drafting clear employment agreements.
Both employees and employers should be aware of employment laws in the context of remote work to ensure fairness, compliance, and transparency in their professional relationships.
Contact Achkar Law
If you are an employer or an employee looking to understand and seek guidance on your rights and responsibilities relating to remote working, our team of experienced employment lawyers at Achkar Law can help.