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January 14, 2021

CBC Interviews Ben Millard: Can Employees Insist on Working from Home During COVID?

Ben Millard recently spoke to CBC News about whether employers can force their employees to work on-site at the office during the COVID crisis.

The short answer is that, with a few exceptions, employers can require employees to work in the office, provided that the employer has complied with all required safety measures to ensure a safe workplace. In terms of COVID, the employer is required to comply with applicable public health orders and directions including those regarding mask wearing, physical distancing, COVID screening tools etc…

If an employee believes that the employer is not complying with required health and safety measures and is putting them at undue risk of COVID-19, the employee has the right to refuse work under the applicable health and safety legislation. A health and safety officer from the government would then inspect the workplace to determine whether it is unsafe. If the workplace is found to be unsafe, the inspector would issue orders to the employer to correct the issues. Once the order has been complied with, the employee would have to return to work.

However, in many cases, the reason that an employee needs to work from home is because the employee has an underlying health condition that puts them at high risk of COVID, or they have to care for a family member who has such a condition. In these circumstances, the employee may have a claim under human rights legislation. As Ben told the CBC:

“If you have a medical condition and a letter from your doctor, and working from home is a reasonable accommodation, the employer has a duty to consider that.”

In all cases, employers and employees should work cooperatively to try to find an acceptable arrangement regarding work-from-home requests, especially during COVID. If you cannot reach such an agreement, we recommend contacting Millard & Company so we can advise you on your legal rights.

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"It was an absolute pleasure to work with Ben Millard at Millard & Company Barristers and Solicitors. Before signing on to use his services he took the time to answer any and all questions we had so that we felt confident when choosing him to help us with our legal matter. Once we signed on, this did not change. He was always very quick to answer our questions or address our concerns. He was very quick to let us know our next moves and did not sit on anything which was well appreciated. Would recommend to anyone to use his services. Kind, courteous, and genuinely great person to deal with!"

- M. C.

"It was a great pleasure, and a great experience, for our not-for-profit organization to work with Marcus McCann to assist us to rewrite our by-laws. Marcus was professional, knowledgeable and understanding of our issues and committed to helping us to frame our new by-laws in the context of both our organization's vision, mission and values and the law as it relates to not-for-profit organizations. He was diligent, completed the work within the time frame we agreed upon, responded to phone calls and emails promptly, and was always courteous to me and my colleagues. I thoroughly recommend Marcus for any organization who needs legal assistance, particularly in developing by-laws."

- J. M.

"Within a day I was connected to Ben Millard and he walked me through the approach and compensation once he understood my circumstances. He negotiated a good deal and it was settled in less than three weeks (would have been faster except for summer holiday). He was always available for questions during the negotiation and will answer questions on any future contracts vis a vis the severance package. With Ben I know I got the best deal i could."

- T. S.

"This is the second occasion for me reaching out to Ben Millard for his employment related expertise. I greatly appreciate Ben’s clear and concise counsel. His ability to distill the relevant and important issues from all the “noise” makes working with him to be efficient and effective. I would not hesitate to recommend him for any employment law matters."

- T. W.