Canadian Lawyer

March 2022

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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20 www.canadianlawyermag.com TOP LABOUR & EMPLOYMENT BOUTIQUES an end, permanently or temporarily. Even conditions for remote work came to the forefront, with questions on the expecta- tions about coming into the office as just one example. However, the introduction of vaccine mandates and the refusal of some workers to be vaccinated became the most significant issue. "I would say that nine out of ten, maybe more, employers, came out with some vaccine policy, given the rate of vacci- nation there are probably up to 10 per cent of the workplace facing some sort of disciplinary action." Lublin says he is speaking with people whose employers have told them to get vaccinated or face suspension with or without pay, and then potential termination. Therefore, he expects the caseload relating to vaccine mandates to keep him busy for another couple of years. A shift in the balance of power The pandemic has brought workplace mental health considerations to the fore- front, particularly for clients in the health- care and other essential service sectors where employers struggle to maintain staffing levels. But even those who have been working at home have realized the value of mental health and work-life balance. "Organizations are seeing a loss of culture and camaraderie that Zoom, Teams and phone calls can't replace" Graeme McFarlane, Roper Greyell LLP multi-generational workplaces, but Canada and its biggest cities are incredibly diverse. So, we're seeing more issues related to how employers can be more inclusive and allow all employees to flourish." Craig Neuman of Neuman Thompson in Edmonton notes how socio-cultural trends are impacting the firm's practice. He says: "The 'Me Too' movement, the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, the 'Truth and Reconcili- ation' movement — these welcome shifts in societal emphasis on issues of equality, inclu- sion, diversity and social justice intersect with and have wide-ranging implications for workplaces and for workplace law." Dealing with dismissal Daniel Lublin of Whitten & Lublin PC says that when the firm was founded in 2009, at the time of the Great Recession, he dealt with many issues related to layoffs and dismissals. "But we've never seen anything like what is happening now [when it comes to dismissal issues]. The past four months have been especially busy since the vaccine mandate policies were implemented and enforced." During the first part of the pandemic, when businesses were closing down or cutting back on staff drastically, there were many issues relating to the terms of the employer-employee relationship coming to It might not have reached the stage of the "Great Resignation" in the United States, where many people are leaving their jobs to find different employers, try something else, or simply just slow their lives down. So it's no wonder, says Angela Rae of Rae Christen Jeffries LLP in Toronto, that employers might want to consider being more flexible when their staff — especially their best employees — ask for accom- modations. These could include flexible work hours, hybrid home-office work, total remote work, or any other practices that have come to the forefront during the pandemic. Rae says it appears to be the "begin- ning of a power dynamic shift in the work- place due to clients increasingly feeling the effects of competition for labour," she says, with employers taking a softer line on these requests than they might have in the past. It's also shone a spotlight on developing laws on "the right to disconnect," such as the recently passed Ontario law that comes into effect in June. It forces larger work- places to develop policies on when and how employees can be contacted after work. Graeme McFarlane, a partner at Roper Greyell LLP, says that while generally, employers understand the benefits of, for example, remote work for employees, many feel they are starting to see adverse effects. "First, some jobs are just better done from home. More importantly, organi- zations are seeing a loss of culture and camaraderie that Zoom, Teams and phone calls can't replace. Some organizations, especially those in the service area, are all about culture," he says. "And finally, it's more challenging to train and develop employees, and younger workers just starting are missing a big part of the learning experience and culture of a job." SPECIAL REPORT

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