People who work from home in Ontario may soon have new legal protections
Whether you commute to your employer's office daily, log in from a remote location every morning, or have some sort of flexible arrangement in place, Ontario's provincial government wants every worker to be equally protected in the case of mass layoffs.
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton made this much clear while speaking on Monday in Kitchener-Waterloo, which has emerged in recent years as a globally-recognized hub for tech talent.
"The Ontario government is working for workers by proposing updates to employment laws that would respond to more workers being remote and a changing economy," reads a news release issued by the province following McNaughton's press conference this afternoon.
"Under the proposed changes, employees who work solely from home would be eligible for the same enhanced notice as 'in-office' and other employees in mass termination situations."
This effectively means that employers would be legally obliged to give remote workers the same eight-week-minimum notice of termination (or pay-in-lieu) as in-office staff.
"No billion-dollar company should be treating their remote employees as second-class," said McNaughton of the move.
"The future of work is here, and our government will continue to lead the country in ensuring workers have the protections they need to find better jobs and earn bigger paycheques in the 21st-century economy."
This proposed change to termination notice periods for remote workers has been put forth as part of a larger package that the province says "expands on the ground-breaking actions in the Working for Workers Acts, 2021 and 2022," which saw the introduction of new right-to-disconnect laws for employees in 2021, among other things.
In addition to expanding how much notice remote workers must be given ahead of layoffs, McNaughton is seeking to ensure that all employers provide new hires with written job details (pay, location, hours, etc.) before their first shifts.
Of course, not all employers would be required to follow the rules equally.
"The ESA's [Employment Standards Act] notice rules for mass termination apply when the employment of 50 or more employees is terminated at an employer's establishment within a four-week period," clarifies the release on the proposed legislation, similar to the parameters in place under the original Working for Workers acts.
"In the case of a mass termination, an employee could be entitled to eight, 12 or 16 weeks' notice, depending on the number of employees terminated."
It's no secret that the world of work has changed significantly after more than two years of rolling lockdowns, not only in Ontario but all over the world.
In the fourth quarter of 2022, roughly 2.2 million people worked from home in Ontario alone, with about 1.4 million doing so on an exclusive basis.
An Angus Reid survey from just over one year ago revealed that the vast majority of people who are already working from home in the province hope to continue doing so indefinitely — or at least to make their own decisions about going back into the office.
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