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Back to the Future of the Workplace

By Linette Lubke + Connor Levy, Workplace Law Group - November 10, 2021 under Business Advisory

Employment law, along with the rest of the world, has been forced to evolve and adapt over the course of the pandemic – from the new emphasis on work-from-home arrangements to masks and workplace vaccination policies – the last two years have been as tumultuous as driving a DeLorean through time. Now the question on everyone’s mind is: what does the future hold?

While we can’t guarantee our predictions are as accurate as Marty McFly’s sports almanac, recent news out of Ontario provide some hints. Last week, the Ontario government announced the new Working for Workers Act. Ontario’s proposed omnibus bill suggests significant changes to the province’s labour and employment legislation, with a specific emphasis on protecting and expanding workers’ rights. Employers and employees should keep a weather eye open to see if similar legislation is brewing on the horizon of their home province.

This Isn’t a Competition?

Non-competition clauses are found in many employment contracts. Their purpose is to prevent former employees from working with industry competitors for a specified amount of time following the end of the employment relationship. The reasonableness of non-competition clauses has always been subjected to judicial scrutiny, and they are typically narrowly construed. However, Ontario is taking this one step further by proposing legislative changes that would prohibit non-compete clauses entirely, except in limited circumstances.

Even if the legislation does pass, employers will still have some tools at their disposal. They can continue to protect their intellectual property and confidential information by using carefully drafted clauses to that effect. Non-solicitation clauses also remain an option.

Disconnecting Doesn’t Mean Disconnected

In Marty McFly’s future, hoverboards were the most difficult thing to balance, but in 2021 it seems that work-life is the real balancing act. While working from home offers flexibility, it can also make it difficult to disconnect at the end of the day. Ontario’s proposed legislation hopes to address this issue by providing workers the right to disconnect and requiring employers with 25 or more employees to develop policies that promote disconnecting. Ontario’s legislation would be the first of its kind in Canada, but variations have already been adopted in other countries like France and Ireland.

Welcoming Workers

Finally, the proposed legislation specifically targets new Canadian immigrants in regulated occupations, other than health care, and aims to improve access to jobs. By removing certain requirements for language testing and Canadian work experience, Ontario plans to facilitate the process by helping workers in skilled professions become licensed in Canada more easily. Not only is this positive for newcomers to Canada, but this approach could help address future labour shortages resulting from Canada’s aging population.

Want More?

Well-drafted employment contracts are important for establishing clear employer-employee relationships and offer various protections to both roles. If you would like assistance preparing an employment contract or have questions about the changing nature of the workplace, please contact Ryley Mennie, Connor Levy, or Linette Lubke from our Workplace Law Group – we can’t time travel but we will do our best to prepare you for whatever the future has in store!

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