The Ontario government is proposing an update to employment laws that would entitle remote employees to termination notices.
The proposed changes, announced on Monday, would make remote workers eligible for the same eight week minimum notice of termination or pay-in-lieu as in-office employees when mass layoffs take place.
“Whether you commute to work every day or not shouldn’t determine what you are owed. No billion-dollar company should be treating their remote employees as second-class,” Ontario Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton said in a statement on Monday.
Currently, Ontario’s Employment Standards Act (ESA) applies when 50 or more employees at an “establishment” are terminated within a four-week period and entitles them to eight, 12 or 16 weeks’ notice of a mass layoff.
When it comes to mass termination, remote workers are not protected because they are not recognized in Ontario’s current labour laws.
As a result, companies can split terminations between remote and in-office employees to avoid meeting the definition of a mass layoff. For example, by letting go of 40 in-office employees along with another 20 remote workers.
If passed, the new law would address and close this existing gap by granting remote workers the same protections as in-office workers in the event of wide-sweeping terminations.
The proposal would broaden the definition of “establishment” to include remote employees and, in doing so, entitle them to the same advanced termination notice.
The proposed legislation is part of the Ontario government’s Working for Workers Act, which has helped employees disconnect from the office and enforced employers to tell their staff how they are being electronically monitored.