Ontario’s latest labour law update gives remote and hybrid workers their due

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<p><strong>By Howard Levitt and Kathryn Marshall</strong></p>
<p>Last week we had the pleasure of having a private meeting with Ontario Secretary of Labor Monte McNaughton to learn more about the new jobs-related law he was about to announce.</p>
<p>McNaughton’s latest offering ensures remote and hybrid workers have the same extended termination or severance rights as office workers in the event of mass layoffs.</p>
<p>Remote and hybrid workers are now entitled to the same eight-week notice period as office workers if there is a mass layoff.</p>
<p>This change updates Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, which of course was drafted long before remote work was the norm.</p>
<p>McNaughton appears to be aiming to update the antiquated ESA as much as possible to reflect the changing nature of work in the post-COVID-19 era.</p>
<p>The collective redundancy clause in the ESA applies if 50 or more people in an “establishment” are made redundant within four weeks.</p>
<p>Nowadays, for many people, “establishment” naturally means their kitchen counter or any other place with Wi-Fi, like your local Starbucks.</p>
<p>But ESA does not recognize your remote office as a “branch office” for the purpose of notification during a mass layoff.</p>
<p>This simple but straightforward change will make a difference for remote and hybrid workers.  And more importantly, it humanizes them.</p>
<p>This recognition will be particularly important in the technology sector, which has been hit by a spate of mass layoffs of late.  And it looks like there’s more to come with the Silicon Valley bank crash and its inevitable domino effect.</p>
<p>Notoriously, Twitter Inc. laid off a large portion of its workforce, including all of its Canadian employees.</p>
<p>Michele Austin was one of those fired from Twitter Canada.</p>
<p>“As someone who has recently gone through a mass termination on Twitter (not recommended), I can assure you that these are fantastic, necessary changes,” she said.</p>
<p>There’s a lot to be said for the need to humanize the termination process, especially in the tech sector.</p>
<p><button class=The story goes on

The rise of remote workers can make employers forget that there are real people behind computer screens.

We’ve all read about the tech layoff stories where people found out they were fired via social media or a one-line email. There seems to be a downward spiral in the way tech layoffs are being handled.

The last thing we want in Canada is for the Silicon Valley tech culture of termination to migrate north.

It’s easy. Treat people like people, not like robots.

This latest law is part of McNaughton’s ‘Work for Workers’ labor reforms, which include the introduction of prohibitions on non-competition and the right to separate.

This is all good news for employees.

Howard Levitt is a senior partner at Levitt Sheikh, employment and labor law attorneys with offices in Toronto and Hamilton. He practices labor law in eight provinces. He is the author of six books including The Redundancy Act in Canada. Kathryn Marshall is a partner at Levitt Sheikh.


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