By Howard Levitt and Kathryn Marshall
Remote and hybrid workers will have the same enhanced notice or severance entitlements as office workers during mass layoffs
Last week we had the pleasure of a private meeting with Ontario’s Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton to hear about the new piece of workplace-related legislation he planned to announce.
Remote and hybrid workers will now be entitled to the same eight-week minimum notice as office workers when a mass layoff happens.
This change updates Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, which of course was drafted long before remote work was the norm.
McNaughton has seemingly set a goal for himself to update the antiquated ESA as much as possible to reflect the changing nature of work in the post-COVID-19 era.
The mass layoffs clause in the ESA applies when 50 or more people at an “establishment” are terminated within a four-week period.
Of course, these days, for many people, “establishment” means their kitchen counter or any other spot with Wi-Fi, like their local Starbucks.
But the ESA doesn’t recognize your remote office as an “establishment” for the purpose of providing notice during a mass layoff.
This simple, yet no-brainer amendment will make a difference for remote and hybrid workers. And importantly, it humanizes them.
This acknowledgement will be especially important in the tech sector, which has been hit by a wave of mass layoffs recently. And it looks like there are more to come with the crash of Silicon Valley Bank and its inevitable ripple effect.
Famously, Twitter Inc. laid off a large chunk of its workforce, including all of its Canadian staff.
Michele Austin was one of those laid off from Twitter Canada.
“As someone who recently went through a mass termination at Twitter (do not recommend), I can assure you these are fantastic, needed changes,” she said.There is much to be said about the need to humanize the termination process, especially in the tech sector.
The rise in a remote workforce can leave employers forgetting that there are real humans behind the computer screens.
We have all read about the horror tech layoff stories of people finding out they were fired over social media, or via a one-line email. There seems to be a downward spiral in the way layoffs in tech are being handled.
The last thing we want in Canada is for the Silicon Valley tech culture of terminations to migrate north.
It is simple. Treat people like people, not robots.
This latest legislation is part of McNaughton’s “working for workers” labour reforms that have included the implementation of bans on non competes and the right to disconnect.
It is good news all around for employees.