Tue. Jan 19th, 2021

It’s time to revisit workplace practices and laws as people return to work

2 min read

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But companies are now less certain. Remote work often means less teamwork, less ability to supervise and reduces the spontaneous office exchanges that, in turn, permit new ideas to erupt. Employers are finding it more difficult to find workers when they need them. Employees are finding being tethered to Zoom constraining.

There is a more serious problem for both workers and the economy: the unintended consequence of higher unemployment and a gutted tax base.

“When you hire remotely you can get the best talent around and not just the best talent that wants to live in your city,” John Sullivan, a professor at San Francisco State University, has pointed out.

If Canadian employers can hire the best and lowest-cost employees from around the globe, what will that do to our tax base and unemployment rate?

As Chip Cutter of the Wall Street Journal put it, “As the work-from-home experiment stretches on, some cracks are starting to emerge. Projects take longer. Training is tougher. Hiring and integrating new employees, more complicated. Some employers say their workers appear less connected and bosses fear that younger professionals aren’t developing at the same rate as they would in offices, absorbing how colleagues do their jobs.”

The upshot is that employers, in particular, are finding remote work less attractive and ordering reluctant employees back to their workplaces. This, to me, is no surprise.

But make no mistake as to the law. If the workplace is not objectively unsafe, employees must return, regardless of how productive they believe (or even prove) they have been at home. And if they refuse to return, that is cause for their discharge and the termination of any CERB or Employment Insurance benefits.

Have a question about employment law during COVID-19? Write to me at levitt@levittllp.com

Howard Levitt is senior partner ofLevitt LLP, employment and labour lawyers. He practises employment law in eight provinces. He is the author of six books including the Law of Dismissal in Canada.

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