Coronavirus (COVID-19): What Canadian Employers Need to Know

Coronavirus: What Employers Need to Know

With the number of confirmed cases climbing exponentially, it is safe to say that the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic isn’t going to go away any time soon – and neither are its impacts on workplaces and the Canadian economy.

With the Ontario Government declaring a state of emergency, businesses of every kind have been forced to temporarily close their doors. There is tremendous uncertainty facing employers as they prepare, manage and respond to workplace challenges that are arising with the spread of the virus. At times like this, with the situation in constant flux, employers should by now have a plan B… and C and D and probably E too.

Employer Responsibilities

As an employer in such unstable times, you likely have a lot on your mind and on your plate. Among the million things going through your head, you’re probably concerned about your obligations to your employees during this time of mounting economic stress.

First and foremost, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. Employees have the right to refuse work when their workplace conditions are “likely to endanger” their personal health and safety. An employee’s risk of contracting the virus as a result of their employment duties will vary greatly depending on a number of factors but may be reason enough to at a minimum request a leave of absence or alternate working arrangements.

A key way to promote the health and safety of your employees throughout the current pandemic is to have policies and procedures in place. At a minimum, this would include setting up hand sanitizers throughout your premises; distributing information to employees about how your company is addressing the increasing hazards of social contact; ensuring that employees who demonstrate symptoms of illness are sent home; and putting extra cleaning procedures in place.

Now is also a good time to make sure your employees understand their leave and benefit entitlements. All employees have the right to take various job-protected unpaid leaves of absence to quarantine themselves, support a sick relative or care for an ill child.

Flexibility and Accommodations

During these stressful times, employers should be especially mindful of take their employee’s concerns seriously and offering grace, understanding and flexibility when navigating this ongoing crisis. This may mean different things to different employees.

For example, the closure of schools may mean you have to accommodate (to the point of undue hardship) employees who have childcare duties by allowing them to work from home or by altering their schedule so that they can care for their children.

For an employee who has returned from abroad and is required to self-quarantine, again, you should accommodate them by allowing them to work from home, use additional vacation time if they have it, or take a leave of absense.

With increasing emphasis on the importance of social distancing to ‘flatten the curve’ of infections, creating flexibility for your employees to work from home can be your most effective policy for keeping your employees – and entire community – safe, healthy and productive.

In this together

The coronavirus pandemic has already brought tremendous hardship to employers and employees alike. At times like this, it can be difficult for employers to know their rights and obligations and how to best manage what may be an emerging crisis for their business. The employment law experts at KCY at LAW can answer your questions about, and advise you on, the best course of action for your particular business needs, call us at 905-639-0999 or click here to book your consultation.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Message to Clients

A Message from KCY at LAW Professional Corporation – COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

UPDATE: March 17, 2020

To all clients and prospective clients;

Our law firm has been closely monitoring the developments of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and we want to ensure the ongoing good health and safety of our employees, our clients, and all prospective clients that reach out to our law firm for their employment law needs, while still providing you with our full legal services.

For those of you who have scheduled upcoming appointments to meet with us face to face in our office, we are now working remotely from home as a result of Doug Ford’s announcement that Ontario is in a “state of emergency” requiring a greater focus on self-isolation for all members of the community. As a result all employment law consultations from this point forward, until further notice, will be conducted by telephone.

Many of our consultations are held by telephone on a normal business basis, so we are well equipped to exchange documents with you in advance of the telephone call to facilitate a successful telephone meeting.

As the situation is rapidly changing from day to day, KCY at LAW has made arrangements for all employees to work from home remotely, and to continue to be available to our clients to serve all of your employment law needs. We continue to be available to you and open for business by telephone and e-mail during our regular business hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 pm. daily.

If you have any questions or concerns, and for a current update on our work regime, please contact our office by telephone at 905-639-0999 to speak to Linda, or Lynn, our client liaisons.

We appreciate your patience and understanding as the situation is an unprecedented situation requiring ongoing business decisions being made on a daily basis that will reflect prudent changes be made to how we practice our business in the coming weeks, as we successfully navigate through the coronavirus pandemic.

We will share any future updates with you through our website. Visit: www.kcyatlaw.ca

Stay safe and healthy,

Yours truly,

The team at KCY at LAW

Kathy Chittley-Young,

Linda Murray, Lynn Hughes, and Janet Smuck

Probationary Periods and Terminations in Canada

Probationary Periods and Terminations

The beginning of a new employment contract is a time of great excitement and uncertainty for both the new employee and their employer. Even the most rigorous hiring process can only go so far in determining if a candidate is the right fit – both in terms of their abilities and overall personality – for a job.

Employers are hopeful that their chosen hire will be as competent as their resume, references and interview made them seem and that they will adjust well to their workforce and new role. They hope that they have chosen the best candidate and will not have to hire anyone for this recently-filled position any time soon. Employees hope for many of the same things as their employer – that they will be comfortable in their new role and working environment – and that they have landed stable, gainful and fulfilling employment.

Probationary periods are the time in which all of these concerns will be evaluated. These initial months of employment offer a good opportunity for an employer to determine if the employee they hired is indeed the right fit for the job and can meet all workplace expectations.

What is a probationary period?

A probationary period typically consists of the first three months of a worker’s employment with a new employer. Under Ontario employment law, employers have no termination obligations in terms of notice or pay in lieu thereof during a workers first three months of employment. This means they can terminate a new employee during this time period without having to give them warning or monetary compensation.

Extended Probationary Periods

While statutory probationary periods in Ontario last a mere three months, many employers insist on longer probationary periods, especially for higher management positions. An extended probationary period must be clearly written into an employee’s contract. The employer must also explain to the new hire how they will be evaluated during this extended probationary period. Importantly, employees are entitled to reasonable notice in the event that they are terminated after three months’ work but before the end of an extended probationary period.

Employee rights during probationary periods

In the past, employees had few to no rights when they were on probation. However, things are beginning to change as courts recognize the vulnerability of employees beginning a new job.

Without justification for their termination during the probationary period, an employer may still have to pay termination pay to a probationary employee, especially if this employee has been recruited from another secure job position.

Courts now recognize that employees must be given a fair and reasonable opportunity to demonstrate their capacity and fit for the position for which they were hired as was demonstrated in the case of Cao v. SBLR LLP.

Cao, a tax accountant, was hired by the accounting firm SBLR LLP. During the first month of her three-month probationary period, Cao was terminated. Her employer explained that she was not performing at the level they had expected and that she needed to acquire further accounting designations. At trial, the Court decided that Cao had not been given reasonable opportunity to demonstrate her abilities. She had only been given five tasks before termination; she wasn’t given any negative or constructive feedback or performance review; and there was no allegation of just cause for dismissal. Therefore, the Court determined that Cao had been fired in bad faith and awarded Cao four months’ notice valued at $20,000.

Employer rights

Employers generally have the right to terminate an employee during their probationary period without notice or pay in lieu thereof, with or without cause, for any reason that is not discriminatory.

Nevertheless, employers should ensure that your employment contracts for new employees clearly set out the probationary period and the period during which they will be evaluated. Employers should take time to go over the nature and expectations of a new employee during their probationary period and be sure to offer constructive feedback during this transition period in which they learn the ropes and find their fit in their new workplace.

If you have further questions about the statutory probation period and what it means for you as either an employee or an employer, contact KCY at LAW by calling 905-639-0999 or request a consultation using our online form here.