Remote workers need more protection from mass layoffs, according to newly proposed updates to employment laws from the Ontario government.
Under current regulation, termination notice for employees is tied to an employer’s physical establishment (or office). Since remote workers are operating outside of the employer’s establishment, they are currently not entitled to an advanced notice of termination under Ontario law.
When COVID-19 hit, around 37 percent of Canadians were working remotely.
In the case of mass layoffs, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) mandates that an employee could be entitled to eight, 12 or 16 weeks notice, depending on the number of employees terminated. These notice rules apply when 50 or more employees are terminated at the employer’s establishment within a four-week period.
If passed, these changes would broaden the definition of “establishment” to include employees’ remote home offices, extending to them the same advanced notice as those who work in-office and other employees during mass termination situations.
Ontario announced these proposed changes as waves of mass layoffs in the tech sector and beyond continue apace. The government said its goal is to extend equal employment and termination rights to remote workers.
“Workers should never find out about lay-offs on social media or in the paper,” Ontario Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton wrote on Twitter.
When COVID-19 hit, around 37 percent of Canadians were working remotely, according to Statistics Canada. While that number has since dropped, with Statistics Canada reporting 22 percent at the end of 2021, those numbers show that around eight million Canadians work remotely.
A Future Skills Centre report suggested that in early 2022 almost one in two employed Canadians worked from home at least some days, a decrease of “only” four percentage points from 2021.
Since 2023 started, over 480 tech companies across the world have laid off a total of more than 128,000 people, per Layoffs.FYI data. Recent layoffs in Canadian tech include Meta, Wattpad, Dapper Labs, Sonder, and Koho.
The Ontario government has made several changes to its standards and regulations for employment in recent years as the COVID-19 pandemic led to mass adoption of remote and hybrid work.
Last year, Bill 88, or the Working for Workers Act 2022, was passed, which added several new provisions to the ESA in response to remote work and labour that uses digital platforms.
Some of these provisions include mandating that all employers with 25 or more workers to have a written policy in place on electronic monitoring of employees. Additionally, Bill 88 sets new minimum standards for digital platform workers, providing them with more transparency with tips, assignments, and notice of removal, among others.