What is career cushioning?

What is career cushioning?

As the economic downturn has become a recent stressor for many employees, job security has also become their top priority. Employees have become terrified of layoffs and don’t want to worry about experiencing weeks, or months, without consistent pay.

As a response to this recent trend, some employees are starting to engage in career cushioning. Career cushioning is when employees prepare or look for alternate jobs while still working for their current employer. Employees can search for other occupations, engage in professional development, expand their network, improve their resume, have multiple jobs etc. all in the effort to secure less transition time between jobs. The goal of career cushioning is to reduce the time without pay and benefits.

An employee can engage in many levels of career cushioning. They are preparing themselves for a potential layoff, which doesn’t need to go as far as actively seeking new work. It can be as simple as attending classes to upgrade their skills.

Why has career cushioning become a trend?

As previously stated, career cushioning has become popular among workers because of the economic downturn. Many employees are experiencing termination, and they are using this method to prepare themselves as best they can. Especially with the increasing inflation rate which has employees more concerned with paying their rent, gas, groceries etc. that just keep getting more expensive.

Further, it has become more common to engage in freelance or “side hustle” work. With the upsurge of remote work since the global pandemic, employees have found ways to use the flexibility of these working conditions to their advantage. It makes engaging in multiple jobs realistic, and if they lose one, they still have other sources of income to continue cash flow.

What options do employers have?

Some employers will respect that their employees work several jobs because there are employees who need multiple sources of income to afford the current cost of living. However, if an employer believes that career cushioning is beginning to affect the employee’s performance, there are a couple solutions that the employer could consider.

To ensure employees maintain their productivity, an employer could implement an exclusivity clause into their employment agreements. An exclusivity clause is a condition that prevents or limits an employee from engaging in additional work that isn’t associated with their current employer.

Employers should keep in mind that exercising this clause for every employee will not be reasonable in a court of law. For example, asking a part-time employee to be exclusive to one employer is not realistic, as they often require more income than one part-time job can provide. Requesting exclusivity from full-time workers who have demanding jobs, where spending hours working another job can negatively impact their current one, is more acceptable.

Further, it is important that employees who want to work various jobs first review their employment agreement to determine whether there is an exclusivity clause in their contract. If there is an exclusivity clause present, the employee has agreed to comply with the outlined restrictions.

It is also legally reasonable for the employer to terminate the employment contract with their employee. An employer may terminate an employee without cause (for no explicated reason), providing that the reason was not discriminatory, and the employee was compensated the promised amount upon termination (severance or pay in lieu of notice).

However, an employer may not penalize the employee for engaging in career cushioning by reducing pay, cutting work hours, moving them to an alternate working location etc. If an employer engages in these behaviours, it is against the law, and the employee can file a constructive dismissal claim. A constructive dismissal is when the employer makes a fundamental change to an employee’s original employment agreement without the consent of the employee.

If you are an employee who has experienced a fundamental change to their employment agreement or if you were terminated without the proper compensation, please contact KCY at LAW by filling in an online consultation request or contact us by phone at 905-639-0999 to book your consultation today.