Your employment questions answered

Sunira Chaudhri

Sunira Chaudhri

Toronto Employment Lawyer

The cooler season has also summoned familiar warnings of a COVID resurgence and concerns about disruptions in the workplace.

With the kids back in school, so too are employees traveling back into the workplace in increasing numbers.

 

Remote work has been replaced with hybrid arrangements coaxing workers to return to the office for good.

 

The cooler season has also summoned familiar warnings of a COVID resurgence. This time employers have been left to reconcile robust efforts to return employees to the workplace while minding the disruption COVID will bring yet again.

 

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we have received this season:

 

Q. In my workplace there is one team that is very vocal about only performing the work contained in their respective job descriptions. If anyone on this team receives a project or task they feel falls outside of their job description, they refuse to perform the task. This is very disruptive and a bad example for the rest of the company as some of these individuals are highly paid. Are employees permitted to deny new responsibilities if they aren’t included in their job description?

 

A. The answer all depends on the nature of the new responsibilities and if the new asks require additional working hours beyond the norm. If employees need to work longer hours to complete the new tasks, they may not be unreasonable in denying the additional work.

 

When job descriptions are created, many employers will include a term that allows them to alter job responsibilities depending on the needs of the business. This allows employers flexibility when business dynamics call for the reshuffling of priorities.

 

If your organization doesn’t have a contract that provides this flexibility, introduce it. In the interim, if the requests are reasonable and don’t require additional hours to complete them, an employer can reasonably expect the work to be completed.

 

Q. Our workplace has had some employees test positive for COVID in the past few weeks. Is there a protocol for employers to follow when employees test positive?

 

A. Canada public health no longer requires individuals to quarantine upon testing positive for COVID. Prudent employers should enact a preemptive sick policy to manage the fall COVID season. Toronto Public Health encourages individuals with COVID to stay home until any fever has subsided and symptoms improve for 24 hours. After that it recommends individuals to wear a mask for 10 days. Some employers provide a limited number of paid sick days (for the year) that can be used if an employee tests positive for COVID. Employers can recommend employees to either work remotely or be granted paid/unpaid leave until symptoms have subsided and they can return to work.

 

Q. An employee in my department failed a random drug test at work. Can this employee be terminated for cause?

 

A. Employers should conduct an investigation prior to proceeding with a termination for cause. An investigation should include exploring if the employer has any relevant medical considerations including addiction and/or a history of susbstance abuse. Terminating employees for cause prior to conducting a thorough investigation may introduce increased liability for the employer.

 

Q. Our workplace has mandated a hybrid return to work plan that requires employees in the office three days a week. It is becoming a trend for some employees to come to the office for a single meeting on their “in office” days and then immediately leaving following the meeting. Is this a breach of the hybrid policy that could be escalated?

 

A. Escalating issues like this could be problematic if your hybrid policy isn’t sufficiently clear or has not been consistently enforced. Clarify your hybrid policy to require employees to work normal business hours on in-office days. Encourage in-office days to be used for team meetings, collaboration on projects, mentorship and meeting with external stakeholders and clients. Enforcing hybrid policies can be hard as most employers have at least a few employees that ignore hybrid return to work plans.

 

Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at sunira@worklylaw.com and your question may be featured in a future column.

 

The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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