Temas de Capa

Remote work: Rights and duties

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At the beginning of the pandemic, it was a temporary solution adopted by many companies around the world and here in Canada: according to their job possibilities, thousands of workers were sent home and started working from there, forming this new work model arrangement.

Since then, many employees discovered the benefits of it: not having to commute, extra hours to stay with the family and the economical savings are among the most common. On the other hand, many companies realized the advantages too with lower overhead costs, improvement of employee morale and higher productivity.
But not all companies were very happy and with the pandemic levels going down, many of them started the process of returning to the offices. Although some workers couldn’t wait to get back to work in person, others were anxious and resistant. While some employers were flexible and adjusted, some allowing 100% remote work, others opting for the hybrid model, some didn’t give an option: they want everybody back in person. This new reality brought the discussion to the table, and some tension too, and many questions have been asked about employees and employers rights and concerns about this returning to the old model of work versus remote work. To clarify some of the doubts our readers might have over this topic, in this week’s edition of Milénio Stadium, we interviewed an expert on employment law in Canada, Howard Levitt, Senior Partner at Levitt Sheikh in Toronto.

milenio stadium - Howard_LevittLLP16605-scaledMilénio Stadium: During the pandemic a lot of employees started working from home. Now, some of them don’t want to come back to the offices despite the employer’s intention. Can a company force the employee to come back to in person work?
Howard Levitt: Yes, they can as long as it was portrayed as only a temporary, not a permanent move and they had always worked in the office previously. If the employer waits too long, well past the point that offices are generally open again, an employee may be able to then argue that working from home had become a term of their employment and forcing them back to the office is a constructive dismissal, allowing them to sue if they had been fired.

MS: When can an employee refuse to return to the office?
H.L: If they have a genuine health condition prohibiting it which will be very rare or if they had made a permanent arrangement permitting them to work from home.

MS: Can employees ask for a hybrid work arrangement? How are the companies reacting in some cases you might know?
H.L: They can always ask and the employer can always say no. Many employers are agreeing to it to maintain their workforce. Employers doing it should have them sign an agreement permitting it to be revoked on 30 days notice.

MS: Is the employee that works from home protected in case of an accident or harassment? What are the changes in their rights?
H.L: The laws respecting harassment remain the same and there has been one case where an employee who injured themselves at home successfully claimed Wsib.

MS: Can employers reduce salaries of those working from home?
H.L: They cannot reduce salaries, but they can offer employees a choice. Return to the office at full salary or from home at a reduced one. But if they don’t give them the option of full salary at the office then they cannot reduce their salary from working from home.

MS: Is the employer allowed to monitor the employee working from home?
H.L: Yes, as long as they fully disclose what they are doing.

MS: Home office law: what does the future hold in your opinion?
H.L: I suspect the law won’t change but employers are going to increasingly insist employees work from the office and prohibit work from home arrangements.

Lizandra Ongaratto/MS


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