Considerations for Health and Safety in the Remote Workplace

Posted in Blog, Expert Series
Jan 27, 2021

The workplace in 2020 looked quite different for many. And, for a number of companies out there these changes are continuing into 2021. With these changes, there are a lot of questions on how to maintain and support employee health, safety, and well-being in this new working environment.

Invest Ottawa recently sat down with tax, legal and HR experts to get their thoughts on how to support and maintain the health and safety of staff while working in a remote setting.

Host

  • Kara Eusebio – Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships, Invest Ottawa

Panellists

Here is the recording of this informative session which we will be breaking down into three quick, easy-to-digest articles.

Article 1 of the Recovery Essentials: Labour Relations, Tax and People in the 2nd Wave series

Health, Safety, and Accommodation

With the shift to remote work, it is important to remember that the employer is still responsible for the health and safety of their employees. While policies put in place prior to the pandemic, should continue to be enforced, they should also be reviewed and adjusted as conditions of the workplace evolve.

Accommodation requests are common in a work from home environment. The employer is responsible for addressing these requests. Each request should be handled on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the request, the employer may need to consider what is required to fulfill it. Will it cause undue hardship to the company? What is the cost to accommodate vs. the cost to terminate?

If the request relates to the location in which the work is being done, keep in mind that there may be tax implications associated with fulfilling that request. For example, if an employee wants to work in a different province, they may be creating a taxable presence which obligates the employer to allocate revenue or profits to that province.

Finding solutions to these requests will require a balanced approach that keeps the health and safety of the employee in mind while keeping the business running at optimal capacity.

Mental Health, Well Being and Sick Leave

Now is a great time for employers to assess and audit the benefits that they offer employees. Having discussions with employees about the challenges they are facing when working from home – safety, security, home-schooling, and other issues – could provide opportunities to increase or customize existing benefits and provide support. Flexibility and communication are necessary to adapt policies and ensure they work for everyone.

And, when it comes to COVID diagnoses unless the employee has been in contact with other team members, and there is a risk to them, then a reasonable right to privacy should be exercised.

Tips for Employers

  • Remain flexible and stay in communication with your employees.
  • Consider contract updates that include accommodation considerations for the new working environment.

It can be challenging to know what resources and safeguards are in place to ensure a smooth transition to your next step. To learn more about the services and support provided by MNP and MDK Business Law, please contact:

Gavin Miranda, Regional Tax Leader, MNP, Eastern Ontario

[email protected]

Phone number: 613-691-4224

 

Jim Cruickshank, Senior Manager, MNP, Human Resources Consulting

[email protected]

Phone number: 905-333-9888

 

R. Drew Kelsall, Business Lawyer, MDK Business Law

[email protected]

Phone number: 613-695-7800 ext. 102

 


The article above is provided for general information only and does not constitute legal or tax advice. MDK Business Law Professional Corporation (“MDK”) and MNP LLP does not warrant or guarantee the quality, accuracy or completeness of any information. The article published is current as of the date of publication or date noted above, but should not be relied upon as accurate, timely or fit for any particular purpose.

Accessing our content, and receipt or transmissions of any communications to you or by MDK and MNP relating to the content does not create a lawyer-client relationship.

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