Latest updates

Canada Summer Jobs programme temporarily changed due to COVID-19
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 22 April 2020

The federal government has announced temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs programme in an effort to encourage youth employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government projects that the earmarked C$263 million in funding will create up to 70,000 jobs for young people. The temporary changes include increasing the wage subsidy for private and public sector employers and allowing employers to hire staff on a part-time basis.

Employee privacy issues during COVID-19 pandemic
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 15 April 2020

Employers that are continuing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic must take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their workers. In order to do this, employers may need to ask employees some personal questions about their health status or conduct health assessments. However, privacy laws continue to apply. This article provides information about various privacy law issues that may arise when employers request personal health information from employees.

Government further expands wage subsidy for employers
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 08 April 2020

The government recently announced that employers which experience a COVID-19-caused revenue loss of at least 30% will be eligible for a subsidy of up to 75% of each employee's wages. According to the oral announcement, the subsidy will, among other things, extend to charities, non-profit organisations and large and small businesses, apply to the first C$58,700 earned per employee and be retroactive to 15 March 2020.

Workforce planning during COVID-19 pandemic: options for employers
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 01 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions and slowdowns in almost all industries. The situation is fluid and government, business and social responses have and must be dynamic. This article discusses the options available to employers outside Quebec to manage the unexpected downturns and, if necessary, reduce their labour force. All of the options may create risks, including circumstances where an employee could allege constructive dismissal and claim termination entitlements.

COVID-19 and workplace government updates: cross-Canada review
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 25 March 2020

Governments across Canada have recently made multiple announcements regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To help make things easier for employers, this article summarises the announcements from all provinces that touch on workplace issues. Common issues concerning COVID-19 include self-isolation, sickness benefits and layoffs.

To vest or not to vest: stock options and equity-based plans in wrongful dismissal claims
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 18 March 2020

Stock options and restricted share unit (RSU) plans are used by employers to attract, reward and retain employees for the long term. While these tools can be useful, such plans should include unequivocal language limiting entitlements on termination of employment to avoid significant liability for employers. The Ontario Court of Appeal recently provided guidance on the enforceability of provisions of stock options and RSU plans that purport to limit the entitlements of an employee on termination.

Pandemic planning for employers: responding to coronavirus
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 11 March 2020

Employers must be prepared to deal with workplace issues arising from Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) as global health officials almost uniformly agree that the disease will continue to spread. This article outlines the issues with which employers should be prepared to deal as part of a pandemic or communicable illness response plan with regard to COVID-19.

Ontario Labour Relations Board rules that Foodora couriers can unionise
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 04 March 2020

In its first gig economy decision, the Ontario Labour Relations Board has decided that Foodora's food delivery couriers are dependent contractors and can unionise. This is the first Ontario decision on the status of gig economy workers. However, these determinations are extremely fact specific and do not mean that all gig economy workers are dependent contractors.

Employees' right to sue for constructive dismissal
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 26 February 2020

Employees should be treated with dignity and respect. Accordingly, employers risk breaching an employment contract by condoning harassment in the workplace and creating a hostile work environment, which – in turn – may give rise to a constructive dismissal claim. Employers facing a constructive dismissal claim resulting from workplace harassment should assess whether the claim falls within the jurisdiction of workers' compensation legislation, rather than the civil courts.

Religious freedom versus occupational health and safety
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 19 February 2020

A great societal debate is taking place following the Quebec National Assembly's recent adoption of the Act Respecting the Laicity of the State, which regulates the wearing of religious symbols at the government level. In a recent case, freedom to wear religious symbols was pitted against employers' legal obligations to ensure and maintain occupational health and safety. The Quebec Court of Appeal held that occupational health and safety prevails over religious freedom, at least in this matter.

No time wasted: years as dependent contractor included in calculation of employee's notice of termination
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 12 February 2020

The Ontario Court of Appeal recently confirmed that years spent as a dependent contractor may count when calculating notice of termination for a contractor turned employee who is terminated without cause. This decision leaves open the possible argument that prior service as an independent contractor may be included in length of service for notice of termination calculations.

To discipline or not to discipline: employers' prerogative
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 05 February 2020

In recent years, several arbitration awards have considered the difference between disciplinary and administrative measures. The Quebec Court of Appeal recently upheld a decision, explaining that the difference between the two may be not only the wilfulness of the misconduct or other elements, but also the employer's intention to discipline.

"I quit! Wait, I changed my mind": impact of rescinded resignations on length of service
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 29 January 2020

A resignation must be clear and unequivocal to end employment. Sometimes employees change their mind and try to rescind a resignation. A recent decision states that when this happens and the employee continues to work for the employer on the same terms and conditions without any interruption, the employee may be deemed to have lost all prior service with the employer.

Employer breaches duty of good faith and honest performance: now what?
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 22 January 2020

Employers have a duty of good faith when they terminate an employee, which requires them to be honest and forthright with employees when doing so. The law has also developed to recognise a duty to perform a contract honestly and in good faith. The Supreme Court is now deciding what happens when an employer breaches that duty. Should a court award an employee money for incentive compensation that they would have expected to receive had it not been for the breach?

School no excuse for excessive absenteeism: arbitrator rules in upholding termination
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 15 January 2020

In a recent arbitration decision, an arbitrator upheld the termination of a grievor for excessive absenteeism under the employer's absenteeism policy. In doing so, the arbitrator rejected the union's submission that the grievor's absenteeism should be excused since she was studying for a professional degree to better herself.

Unionising the gig economy: contractor or employee?
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 04 December 2019

One of the main disputes regarding the rise and proliferation of the gig economy is whether its workers are employees or contractors. Companies treat such workers as independent contractors, but some workers have been pushing back, claiming that they are employees. This has implications for their ability to unionise. The Ontario Labour Relations Board will soon be ruling on this issue when it determines whether Foodora couriers have the right to unionise.

Only buying assets? Look out for surprise employment liabilities!
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 20 November 2019

A recent Ontario Superior Court ruling highlights how employers can end up with unexpected employment liabilities after an asset purchase deal. It also highlights the importance of careful wording when hiring employees in those situations. In light of this decision, purchasers in an asset deal should be aware of the new employer's fate. In such cases, proper employment offers are key.

Employer flexibility does not modify employment contracts
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 13 November 2019

Employees sometimes need flexibility to start or leave work at different times than originally agreed with their employer (eg, because of childcare issues). A recent appellate decision confirms that employer flexibility in granting occasional requests does not always modify the underlying employment contract.

Showing nude photos to supervisor justifies termination of long-service employee
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 06 November 2019

A recent arbitration decision has confirmed that termination can be the appropriate penalty for long-service employees with clean disciplinary records when they engage in sexual harassment, including showing a nude photo to a supervisor. This case highlights how seriously arbitrators look at sexual harassment in the workplace – particularly in the #MeToo era – and reminds employers of the importance of taking detailed notes during an investigation, including with respect to an individual's demeanour.

Bonus entitlement on basis of reasonable expectation
  • Employment & Immigration
  • Canada
  • 23 October 2019

A recent British Columbia Supreme Court ruling has clarified that even where the terms of a bonus plan expressly state that payment of a bonus is discretionary, an employer's conduct can affect whether the bonus is treated as discretionary on termination of employment. Employers should be aware of, and adhere to, the terms of bonus plans. Further, employers must be mindful of the pattern and history of discretion exercised in awarding bonuses during an employee's employment.

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