Employee Rights During a Stay-at-Home Order

Employee Rights During a Stay-at-Home Order

Whether you’re working from home or you’re an essential worker, be aware of your employee rights during a stay-at-home order.

Ontario, and most of the country, is now deep into its third wave of COVID-19. With case numbers soaring and our healthcare system reaching its limits, the province announced a State of Emergency. We’ve found ourselves in a third lockdown under a strict stay-at-home order. Many individuals whose jobs weren’t affected by the lockdown (essential workers, those who work from home) have some questions regarding employee rights during a stay-at-home order.

Do I still have employee rights if I’m working from home?

Your workplace may look a bit different now, but yes, you still have employee rights when working from home. When you’re working from home, it becomes more challenging to separate your work life from your personal life, and this is where your employee rights come into play.

As per the Employment Standards Act, most non-managerial workers:

  • Cannot be scheduled for more than 48 working hours a week. Furthermore, employees are only required to work a maximum of 8 hours a day unless the standard length of a workday is longer than 8 hours. To exceed these limits, both the employer and employee must agree; this includes overtime.
  • Must have 24 consecutive hours off per week, or 48 consecutive hours every two weeks.
  • Must have a minimum of 11 consecutive hours off-the-clock each day, with at least 8 hours between each shift.
  • Are entitled to a minimum 30-minute break after every five hours worked.

These are some examples of basic employee rights that still apply to you even when you’re working from home. However, depending on what your occupation is, there may be some exceptions. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with your contractual agreement with your employer and ask them to clarify expectations and policies regarding working from home. 

Can I refuse to report to work during a stay-at-home order?

Yes and no. During the Stay-at-Home order, you can only leave your home for essential purposes. Essential purposes include accessing healthcare services and pharmacies, exercising, grocery shopping, and essential work.

If you are an essential worker, you do have employee rights to refuse unsafe work in the context of COVID-19. However – generally speaking – if public health deems your workplace essential, you do need to report to work as usual.

Any nonessential workplaces must either transition to working online or lay off their employee; it’s the law. If your employer asks you to work from home, it’s your responsibility to do so as outlined by your employer. If your employer asks you to report to in-person, nonessential work, you have the right to refuse. 

Your employee rights should always be a priority.

Now, more than ever, working Canadians must understand and prioritize their employee rights. Employment laws are in place for a reason; they keep you safe and ensure that you can maintain a healthy work-life balance, pandemic or not. Please familiarize yourself with your rights and exercise them accordingly to protect yourself and your mental health during these challenging times.