February 3, 2022

Neither employers nor employees seem to think that working conditions will be — or should be — the same after the pandemic as they were before. As COVID-19 transitions from pandemic to endemic virus, many employers are likely to offer the option to work from home at least part of the time. In this session, experts will discuss legal and practical considerations that must be addressed as working from home ceases to be an emergency measure and becomes a permanent feature of paid work.

  • From both management and union perspectives, what are the pros and cons of continuing work-from-home arrangements when the pandemic ends?
  • What disputes, if any, have arisen regarding work-from-home arrangements? What disputes are likely to arise if work-from-home arrangements continue to be common?
  • Should workplace parties consider other types of novel work arrangements as they reassess how work should be done? Is now the time to experiment with other ways of working? For example, should four-day workweeks become more common? Shorter workdays?
  • Should caring for children while working from home become the norm, or should employees be expected to completely devote their attention to work during certain hours whether they are at home or in the office?
  • Do employees need fewer sick days if they can work at home while experiencing minor symptoms? How sick must an employee be in order to be too sick to work from home?
  • What occupational health and safety obligations extend into an employee’s home workspace? Should employers dictate how home workspaces should be set up to ensure they are ergonomically correct?
  • Will Ontario’s recently legislated right to disconnect help employees balance work and personal obligations as their homes become workplaces? Has Ontario provided enough guidance to employers on the right to disconnect?
  • What balance should be struck between employees’ right to privacy in their own homes and employers’ interests in supervising employees working from home? What does the arbitral caselaw say about the permissibility of “always on” webcam policies, keystroke monitoring software, and other technological means of closely tracking employee behaviour and productivity?
  • What needs to be done to address less tangible concerns about work-from-home arrangements and other flexible work practices? For example, what should be done to foster creativity, teamwork, morale, inclusiveness, equality of opportunity, and a sense of belonging in a hybrid workplace? What needs to be done to maintain effective union representation and cohesion among union members?