Working from home may not appeal to all employers when the pandemic ends
“ In many cases, no one has really stopped to put anything in writing about the terms of employment regarding working from home, ” the lawyer says.
How satisfied are you with your home office experience over the past year?
Don’t be too comfortable.
If your employer wants you to return to the office, you may just have to comply.
âI think it will be a mess,â said Scott Hawryliw, litigation lawyer at Stewart Esten LLP. “There are all kinds of problems here.”
The workplace issue will likely attract more attention as we approach herd immunity, with more of us vaccinated and the risk of the spread of COVID-19 starting to decrease, allowing employers to start trying to get back to normal.
The ability to work from home, like other aspects of the employment relationship, depends on the individual’s employment contract.
But the pandemic was suddenly upon us, Hawryliw points out.
âI think in a lot of cases nobody really stopped to put anything in writing on the terms of employment regarding working from home,â he said.
The workplace and the law have undergone significant changes over the past 13 months, although not everything has necessarily gone hand in hand.
And with these changes – largely unforeseen – comes uncertainty.
âIt’s something that we haven’t really experienced before and it’s something that has really changed the face of employment law, because the dynamic between employer and employee has also changed,â said Josh Valler, lawyer. in labor law and litigator with Barriston Law in Barrie.
While some are eager to get away from home and return to work, many are happy to remain based in their home office with the travel eliminated.
But lawyers suggest these employees shouldn’t be too comfortable unless they have something in writing.
Unless a problem prevents them from going there, the employer has the right to call them back, said Nicole Simes. There is no legal obligation for the employer to allow the employee to continue working from home.
âThere are a lot of people who make it a problem now, but also make it a problem in the future. … They want confirmation that they will be able to continue working from home for the indefinite future, âsaid the Toronto and Barrie labor lawyer. âIt really changed the discussion about remote working.
“When it comes to an accommodation problem, therefore based on a disability, there is a lot of pressure, a very strong obligation for the employer to accommodate because of the law on human rights . So it’s this tension of: should they do it and what does this accommodation look like? Simes added.
Mental health problems – like the anxiety resulting from the pandemic – were mentioned, as well as physical disabilities, as reasons that prevent some people from returning to work.
There is also the issue of workplace safety given our experience over the past year.
A safe working environment now includes personal protective equipment (PPE) and safe distances and may also include other pandemic-specific safety measures.
Valler sees a possible problem with those who moved during the pandemic and the messages they received from their employer.
Major cities around the world have seen an exodus of inner city residents as people realize they are no longer bound by geography as they telecommute during the pandemic.
The result for Toronto has been an increase in the number of vacant units and lower rents in the downtown core as city dwellers decide to focus more on the lifestyle, relocating to communities across the region where they can find them. cheaper accommodation.
One of the main destinations for the exodus from Toronto during the pandemic was Barrie and Simcoe County. But now that many have arrived, does that mean they’re ultimately destined to join that weekday commute each morning back to the big city?
âSome employers are now giving the reassurance to their employees, ‘Hey, you know what, we’re probably not going to call you back to the office in the near future or even after the pandemic is over,’ ‘Based on this portrayal from the employer, maybeâ¦ the employee wants to take advantage of cheaper housing rates and move to other jurisdictions, but is still able to fulfill his role. What’s going on there? “
The best approach is for the employer to be transparent and communicate early on what it expects from employees after the pandemic, he said.
âThat way you could avoid some of the rejection from some employees or some of the friction that might be caused once you make that decision,â Valler said. “You can avoid an unnecessary fight later.”