Global Morning Show: Rights for employees nervous about returning to the office

Headshot of employment lawyer Lior Samfiru to the left of the Global News logo, which hovers above a dark blue band across the bottom of the image bearing the Samfiru Tumarkin LLP logo.

Interview Summary

As mandates and restrictions across the province of Ontario are soon set to lift, many employers and employees are wondering what this will mean for their workplace rights. Will employees be obligated to return to the office at their employer’s request? What can employees who wish to remain working remotely do to enforce their own preferences?

Lior Samfiru, a Toronto employment lawyer and national co-managing partner at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP joined Global News on the Morning Show to answer these questions and more.

Interview Notes

What steps are employers taking regarding employees returning to the office?

Employers need to ensure that safety protocols are in place in the workplace such as testing requirements, masking, proper PPE etc. It could also be beneficial for employers to implement a gradual return to the workplace to test out what works best for their work environment. Ultimately, employers can also offer extra time and care for employees with childcare obligations to make arrangements.

What rights do employees have who are nervous about returning to the office?

Employees should express their concerns to their employers and inquire as to what measures are being put in place to ensure a safe work environment. Employees do have the right to refuse unsafe work and file a complaint with the Ministry in order to investigate workplace safety.

Are hybrid and remote work options likely to be permanent for workplaces?

It has become the new “normal” for many workplaces to embrace a hybrid work environment. Employees who continue to work remotely should expect some measure of monitoring from their employers, as long as the software keeps in mind an employee’s rights to privacy.

Is it considered legal for employers to reduce wages if an employee chooses to work from home?

Employees should be given the option by their employers whether or not they wish to return to the office or remain at home and take a pay cut. An employer cannot impose a pay reduction without an employee’s consent. Significant changes to the terms of employment, such as a dramatic pay reduction, can result in a constructive dismissal.

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