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Restrictions flip-flop creates challenges for employers, lawyer says

“What I see now from an employment point of view is that many companies are at the end of their rope,” says lawyer

A new set of restrictions linked to a pandemic introduces a different set of challenges, some of which could lead to legal complications, according to local lawyers.

“It’s a flip-flop,” litigation lawyer Scott Hawryliw said. “Restaurants, I think, in particular, are hit hard by this. “

New restrictions, caused by the rapid spread of the omicron virus, took effect on Wednesday, including capacity limits, a ban on indoor eating and the closure of indoor fitness facilities, such as gyms.

Workers should also work remotely where possible, and students, who expected to return to class, instead spend at least the first two weeks of the year working online.

Trying to deal with kids learning at home, as well as absences due to COVID-19, are wreaking havoc in the world of work. Combined with the impact of the closures, there are concerns about the impact this latest round of new rules will have on employers.

Meanwhile, employers juggling different absences are required to make certain accommodations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, including for parents who must take time off work for children who stay away. house, attorney Josh Valler said.

“This is a very important consideration: ‘Do I let them go, do I fire them? “The important thing is you can’t, really, because family status is a protected ground under the human rights code,” Valler said. “Whether it’s unpaid time off or remote work opportunities, the employer needs to work with employees to understand this. “

Other people with pre-existing health conditions have worried about exposure outside the home and have asked to continue working from home even when regulations don’t require it.

Again, employers have a duty to accommodate any medical disability for those who present the appropriate documents, Valler said.

Lawyer Steve Rastin said he saw a high level of compliance with the new rules during the first shutdown, especially given various government programs that have slowed down, such as rent relief and wage subsidies.

But with nearly two years of various restrictions and many having depleted their reserves, he expects many independent businesses will not survive further closures and restrictions.

“What I see now from an employment perspective is that a lot of companies are running out of steam,” Rastin said.

Many are forced to consider whether it is worth continuing, he added.

Earlier in the pandemic, employers had to decide whether or not to lay off employees and the impact that decision would have on their operations.

At the time, Hawryliw said the biggest concern at the time was whether the laid-off employees would argue for a layoff. Constructive dismissal gives the employee the right to claim lost wages from the employer.

“Now what I hear the most is, ‘If I fire them, how am I going to get them back? “The job market has made a 180,” he said.

The labor market has evolved into what is described as the first employee market Ontario has seen in a very long time. Many employers, especially those in service industries, including restaurants, have reported having difficulty recruiting staff, preventing some from returning to full-fledged businesses since the economy reopened last summer.

There have been reports of incentives to attract employees, including wage increases, especially for minimum wage workers.

Those same employers, Hawryliw added, must now decide whether they want to risk laying off employees for the next three weeks and possibly longer, again risking losing them altogether.

“Businesses are getting more and more stressed,” said Hawryliw, “there will be employers who just don’t get out of this in February.”