Want to know your employment rights during COVID-19? This legal information won’t cost you a cent - InfoNews

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Want to know your employment rights during COVID-19? This legal information won’t cost you a cent

Kelowna employment lawyer David Brown is with Kent Employment Law.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/kentemploymentlaw
April 05, 2020 - 2:30 PM

In the wake of hundreds of people being laid off work because of COVID-19, Kelowna employment lawyer David Brown was surprised that more workers weren’t calling for advice.

“There’s been an initial uptake, especially from employers, about how to go about reducing staffing hours, layoffs, questions about terminations, things like that,” he told iNFOnews.ca. “There has been an uptick as well from employees, although it has not been the floodgate surge we were expecting around this.”

He and other members of the Kent Employment Law Firm, where he works, have a couple of theories about that.

One is that most people are being laid off temporarily – which is a strategy he recommends to employers who call – so there are no conflicts about proper severance. Employees are just applying for Employment Insurance or other new programs.

Another reason, which he didn’t mention, is that he or other members of the firm are doing frequent blog and video posts on their web page explaining things like constructive dismissal, provincial and federal programs and answering questions such as “Can an employee refuse to come to work if they think they are at risk of contracting COVID-19 there?” The answer is that workers can refuse to work in an unsafe work environment but, he recommends employers contact him to find out what to do about it.

While it seems simple enough that an employer can just issue a temporary layoff notice, many may not realize that can only be done with the permission of the employee. If the employee says no and is laid off temporarily anyways, that could be considered constructive dismissal and severance will likely have to be paid.

Workers may want a permanent layoff so they can get severance now, especially if they believe the employer may close or go bankrupt as the pandemic drags on and won’t have the money to pay severance down the road.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to employment relations during this massive change in the workplace during COVID-19.

And, given that many of those laid off are lower paid workers, they may not think they can afford a lawyer when they don’t have a job and rent was just due.

Brown, of course, is not the only employment lawyer in the Okanagan or Kamloops but his firm has one of the most extensive collections of COVID-19 blogs and also does videos, mostly featuring Brown himself.

Smithson Employment Law, also in Kelowna, has a number of COVID-19 posts that can be seen here.

Nixon Wenger Lawyers is in Vernon. Their posts can be seen here.


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