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Employment Lawyers North Vancouver

Pettit & Company – Employment Lawyers

 

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Employment Lawyers North Vancouver

COVID-19 has created unprecedented disruptions for workplaces across the country.

As we continue to adjust to our new normal, it’s important for both employees and employers to be aware of their rights and obligations under the law. And because the law is changing every day in response to COVID-19, you may require additional legal assistance to understand those obligations. 

Below, we’ve compiled some answers to common questions for employees and employers. But we can’t provide legal advice through a website, and you shouldn’t take these questions and answers as legal advice. Employment law is complex, and different laws, rules and systems may apply depending on where you live, who employs you, and what type of work you do. The information below will apply to many people living in British Columbia, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy or applicability.

If you have questions or want to discuss your unique situation, contact us.

Business Hours

  • Monday 8:30AM - 4:30PM
  • Tuesday 8:30AM - 4:30PM
  • Wednesday 8:30AM - 4:30PM
  • Thrusday 8:30AM - 4:30PM
  • Friday 8:30AM - 4:30PM
  • Saturday closed
  • Sunday closed

I’m an Employee

Can my employer make me stay home / do I have to go to work?

Employers are required to take reasonable steps to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. This can mean requiring you to remain in self-isolation or quarantine, if those are the government recommendations for someone in your situation. It can also mean asking you to work remotely if you are able to do so.

If your workplace is still open, your employer has taken all reasonable precautions, and they are asking you to attend work, you may still have to attend work.

You can refuse work, or refuse to come to your place of employment, if you have reasonable cause to believe that working would create an undue hazard to the health and safety of yourself or your coworkers.

What is ‘reasonable cause’ to refuse work, and what constitutes an ‘undue hazard,’ depend on the specific facts of your situation, including:

  • The nature of your work, your training, and experience;
  • The type of risk or hazard;
  • The individual needs and health status of you and/or your coworkers;
  • The steps that your employer can or will take to protect workers;
  • What is reasonable in the circumstances for you, your coworkers, and your employer.
My kids are out of school / I need to take care of someone and I can’t go to work—can I be fired?

In some situations, this can trigger your employer’s duty to accommodate you on the basis of family status or another protected area. This means your employer would have to take reasonable steps to let you work remotely, take a leave of absence, or otherwise accommodate your need to provide childcare.

If you cannot be accommodated, you may still be eligible for job-protected leave, during which you would still receive your regular benefits, wage increases, length of service accrual, etc. Contact us to discuss the federal and provincial standards that may apply to your situation.

Can my employer fire me for getting sick or needing to self-isolate?

No, you cannot be fired for getting sick or having to go into quarantine or self-isolation. Your employer cannot discriminate against you based on a medical issue or medical leave.

The BC Employment Standards Act allows for three days of unpaid, job-protected leave for people who cannot work due to illness or personal injury. You may need to satisfy your employer that you are ill or injured and cannot work.

In response to COVID-19, the provincial and federal governments have also enacted new types of unpaid, job-protected leave, including leave for people who are under mandatory quarantine or self-isolation. During this time, you should still receive your regular benefits, wage increases, length of service accrual, etc.

Can my employer reduce my hours or pay due to COVID-19?

There is no clear-cut answer to this question. It depends on a number of factors, including the type of work you do, whether you have a contract and what it says, and why your employer is trying to reduce your hours or pay.

Can my employer ask me to take a temporary layoff?

An employee is “laid off” when they receive less work, or no work, but with the plan that they will eventually return to a regular work schedule.

In some situations, employers can put you on a temporary layoff, in which you are still laid off but it is not considered a termination of employment and you are not owed severance pay. This can only happen if:

  1. Your employment contract or collective agreement allows for temporary layoffs;
  2. You work in an industry (e.g. logging) in which temporary layoffs are part of the normal way business is done; or
  3. You agree to a temporary layoff.

In response to COVID-19, the government has introduced new rules about the length of temporary layoffs. If your temporary layoff goes on for too long, it may become a termination and you would be entitled to severance pay.

If your employer has asked you to take a temporary layoff, we can talk through the situation with you and offer advice.

Can my employer fire me because of COVID-19?

An employer can terminate employment “without cause” for any reason, so long as it is not discriminatory or a violation of your human rights. A “without cause” termination means that you are being let go through no fault of your own. Your employer can fire you “without cause” in a number of situations, including where business has slowed down, or because you cannot work remotely.

If you are fired without cause, you are entitled to severance pay. The amount of severance pay you are owed will depend on a number of factors, including your age, type of employment, length of employment, and the terms of your contract.

If your employer alleges your firing was “for cause,” contact us. “For cause” firings are rare and should be restricted to truly egregious behaviour. We can help you dispute the termination and get your full amount of severance pay.

I was laid off, but my work hasn’t given me my pay / an ROE—what should I do?

If you have been laid off, there are statutory deadlines by which your employer must pay you and provide you with your Record of Employment (“ROE”).  Employers are obligated to provide employees with their final pay, including any vacation or other entitlements, within 48 hours after your last day worked. Employers are obligated to provide an ROE within 5 days after the end of the last pay period during which you received pay.

There are steps you can take to compel your employer to give you your final paycheque or an ROE. The first step is almost always to demand, in writing, that these things be produced to you immediately. We can assist you with a letter on formal letterhead, asserting your rights.

I’m an Employer

Can I make sick employees stay home?

Employers are required to take reasonable steps to maintain a safe and healthy work environment. This can mean requiring an employee to remain in self-isolation or quarantine, or work remotely.

If your business can remain open, and you have taken all reasonable precautions, to ensure everyone’s safety and wellbeing, you may be able to insist that your employees attend work as usual.

Can I ask someone to prove they do / do not have COVID-19?

British Columbia has vigorous personal privacy protections in place. If you violate another person’s privacy, you can be sued.

Your business may also have privacy or sick leave policies in place that would affect what you can ask for, as well as how and whether you can share that information with other staff or employees.

At the same time, you have an obligation to all employees to keep their workplace safe. This may require you to ask employees to disclose their health status, and keep you informed about any diagnosis of COVID-19.

The federal and provincial governments have also put into place new types of leave, with different rules about what you can and cannot ask employees to prove.

What is reasonable or legal in this situation is rapidly changing. Contact us to discuss your unique situation. We can help you draft new workplace policies that address sick leave, proof of illness, and reporting requirements.

Can I fire someone if they cannot come to work?

Rarely, and only with caution. Firing someone for being sick, or because they have to stay at home to care for children or dependents, could constitute discrimination on the basis of medical or family status.

The BC Employment Standards Act allows for unpaid, job-protected leave in the event of illness or personal injury.  In response to COVID-19, the provincial and federal governments have also enacted new types of unpaid, job-protected leave, including leave for people who are under mandatory quarantine or self-isolation; or people who cannot work because they have childcare or other obligations.

While employees are on leave, they should still receive their regular benefits and wage increases, and should continue to accrue seniority and length of service.

Can I fire someone if they can come to work, but refuse to do so?

Employees can refuse work if they have reasonable cause to believe that working would create an undue hazard to their health and safety, or that of their coworkers.

What is ‘reasonable cause’ to refuse work, and what constitutes an ‘undue hazard,’ depend on the specific facts of your situation, including:

  • The nature of the employee’s work, their training, and experience;
  • The type of risk or hazard;
  • The individual needs and health status of the employee and/or their coworkers;
  • The steps that you have taken, or can take, to protect that employee / their coworkers;
  • What is reasonable in the circumstances for you and your employees.

What is reasonable for a small, family-owned business is different from what is reasonable for a multi-national corporation. If you have an employee who is refusing work, contact us. We can help you figure out a solution that works for you, your employee, and your business.

My business has transitioned to remote work—now what?

A move to remote work can trigger new expectations from both employer and employee. When will your employees be expected to work or be available? What kind of flexibility can you offer with respect to breaks, lunch times, and hours? What kind of reporting do you need to keep the workplace running smoothly?

British Columbia’s occupational health and safety legislation has a number of requirements, some of which are not well-known. You may not be aware of your obligations where staff are be working in new locations, or working alone.

We can help you clarify your expectations, anticipate common problems and pitfalls, and draft all of the above into enforceable workplace policy, to protect your business now and in the months to come.

If we reduce staff hours or let people go, what are my obligations?

Planning for a downturn in business is complex and should involve both legal and financial advice. We can work with you and your accountant or other financial advisors to figure out short-term and long-term plans for your business.

Any reduction in work hours or wages may constitute termination and trigger severance entitlement. We can review existing contracts and legislation and advise on temporary layoffs, termination notices and severance entitlement.

In response to COVID-19, the federal and provincial governments are putting new types of leave and benefits into place, including wage subsidies that may help you keep staff employed for longer. We can work with you to come up with customized, creative solutions to staffing issues.

If your existing contracts or workplace policies are out of date, or contain significant risks, we can work with you to draft new contracts and workplace policies for the future.

What if I can’t afford a lawyer?

Not all employment problems require legal action. If your problem is one that does not require a lawyer, we will let you know and, where possible, direct you to other resources.

We can also assist with legal work on an unbundled basis. “Unbundled” legal services refer to assistance on specific questions or issues, as needed. Rather than hiring a lawyer to handle your case from start to finish, we provide guidance on specific issues and topics as you require.

Because most tasks are performed by the client, your legal costs are minimized, but you can still get legal help and advice when you need it most.

Some examples of unbundled services we can provide:

  • Drafting and filing legal documents in court;
  • Drafting and reviewing employment agreements, contracts, and workplace policies;
  • Reviewing, drafting, and editing letters or arguments, including “demand letters” to to ask someone to correct their behaviour;
  • Reviewing materials and evidence, or providing coaching, for an upcoming hearing;
  • Attending on your behalf at a settlement conference, mediation, tribunal or court hearing.

Employment Lawyers North Vancouver

Pettit & Company Employment Lawyers

Head Office:
Suite 301-2609 Westview Drive
North Vancouver, BC V7N-4M2

Employment Lawyers Vancouver

Pettit & Company – Employment Lawyers Vancouver

Talk to Pettit & Co Today