Remote Work – What are the HR Compliance Implications?

Remote work can expand the employment laws with which an employer must comply. When your employees move and work remotely from other provinces, typically, the employment laws of those other provinces will apply.

Transitioning from an in-person to a fully remote workplace can be particularly jarring for employers who are located in a single province. You may have just become a multi-jurisdictional employer.

So, what should steps should employers with remote workforces take to ensure HR compliance?

Woman working from home - remote work.

Confirm Which Laws Apply to Your Remote Workers

Generally speaking, the law of the province where an employee works will be the law that applies to that employee. For example, this means that if you are an Ontario-based employer, and you have an employee who moves to Nova Scotia and works remotely from there, you must follow the Nova Scotia employment standards with respect to that employee.

In certain circumstances, however, the laws of the province where the employer is located may apply outside of that jurisdiction. For example, in Ontario, the Employment Standards Act, 2000 applies to: (1) work performed in Ontario; and (2) work performed both in and outside Ontario where the “outside Ontario work” is a continuation of the work performed in Ontario.

But, typically, when your employee is working from their home in another province, you must follow that province’s employment laws.

What are the Implications of Becoming a Multi-jurisdictional Employer?

There are 3 key tasks that you will want to undertake once you become a multi-jurisdictional employer.

#1 Respond to differing employment standards entitlements.

Having remote workers across Canada means that you must comply with many more employment laws. These laws differ from one province to the next. This means that employees have different entitlements – per employment standards legislation – depending on where they are located.

For example, leaves of absence requirements can be quite different depending on the location of the remote work. The province in which an employee works will determine the length of a leave, who is considered a family member (for purposes of family-related leaves), when an employee becomes eligible for the leave, and how much notice they must provide to their employer before taking the leave. This is just one example – most employment standards requirements vary somewhat from one province to the next.

There are two ways to deal with the different entitlements: (1) provide employees with different entitlements based on their location; or (2) determine which is the most generous entitlement and provide that to all employees. Most employers follow the latter approach, as it is easier (and fairer) to administer. Either way, you need to spend some time reviewing and comparing employment standards in the jurisdictions where workers are located.

#2 Keep an eye out for unexpected requirements.

Some provinces have unique (and possibly unexpected) employment law requirements.

For instance, many requirements in Québec’s Charter of the French Language are triggered as soon as an employer hires 1 employee in Québec. This means that French language laws could be activated when a single employee opts to work remotely in Québec. These French language requirements include:

  • the entitlement to work and be supervised in French, and to receive workplace communications and documentation in French, including offers of employment or promotion, notices of dismissal, collective agreements and grievances;
  • protection from discrimination and harassment because an employee only speaks French;
  • prohibition of employers making knowledge of a language other than French a job requirement (subject to certain exceptions).

 

For more details on Québec’s French language laws, see our earlier post: French Language Laws Triggered by 1 Quebec Employee.

And keep in mind that Québec is not the only jurisdiction with unique HR laws. For example, many Ontario and Manitoba accessibility requirements kick in as soon as you hire 1 employee. Each province may include some surprising HR compliance requirements.

#3 Track changes to many laws.

Unfortunately, HR laws are not static. Whether in response to changes in the workplace or a different political perspective, Canadian legislatures frequently amend employment legislation by passing Bills and publishing new regulations. Employers must be aware of and comply with changes to employment laws. And it is probably not surprising – the more provinces where you have remote workers, the more changes you must track.

Employers are responsible for knowing about changes in all jurisdictions where employees are located.

Emerging Issues in Remote Work Laws

During the pandemic, close to 40% of Canadians worked from home. When governments lifted COVID restrictions, these numbers reduced. However, a significant number of employees continue to work from home – and this has caught the attention of Canadian governments.

Québec recently amended its Act respecting occupational health and safety to specify that it applies to workers who telework and their employers. (Note: Health and safety laws often apply to remote workers in jurisdictions that do not include such language, but Québec has taken steps to make it clear that employers must consider health and safety requirements with respect to remote work.)  Per our earlier post, Ontario has introduced amendments to clarify that when determining whether 50+ employees have been terminated (for purposes of group termination), employers will have to include employees who work from home.

So, employers with remote workforces may also encounter HR law changes that specifically address this new era of remote work.

How Compliance Works Helps Employers

HR compliance requirements can vary considerably from one province to the next.  Compliance Works makes it quick and easy for employers to compare how requirements differ across Canada.

Compliance Works Compare Jurisdictions Pregnancy and Parental Leave Screen Shot

 

Compliance Works provides easy-to-read summaries and the latest changes on Accessibility, Employment Standards, Health & Safety, Human Rights, Labour Relations, Official Languages, Pay Equity and Privacy. Contact us to Request a Demosubscribe to Compliance Works publications, or email us at info@complianceworks.ca to learn how a paid subscription to Compliance Works can help your HR team succeed.

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Portrait of blog post author, Lesha Van Der Bij

Author: Lesha Van Der Bij, CEO and Co-Founder, Compliance Works

Lesha is a senior lawyer who spent many years of her legal career at major Canadian law firms reviewing legislation and creating easy-to-understand summaries for clients.