COVID Research: Does an employer have a duty to accommodate its employees by allowing them to work from home?

can employees refuse to return to work

With COVID-19 causing thousands of employees to work from home but does an employer have a duty to accommodate its employees by allowing them to work from home?

We asked Alexsei for help.

Issue:

Does the employer have a duty to accommodate the person by allowing them to work from home?

Facts:

The client is immunocompromised but the employer is refusing to allow them to work from home, despite the workplace potentially being infected by a pathogen or being otherwise hazardous to the employee.

Conclusion:

Multiple pieces of legislation impact whether an employee is obliged to physically attend a workplace when doing so may be hazardous to their health.

For one, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, at section 43, provides that a worker may refuse to work or to do particular work where he or she has reason to believe that any machine, equipment, device, or thing the worker is to use or operate is likely to endanger himself, herself, or another worker. Certain workers, listed in s.43(2), are excluded. A non-excluded worker may
similarly refuse to work or do particular work where they have a reason to believe that the physical condition of the workplace or the part thereof in which he or she works or is to work is likely to endanger him or herself…

Download the full memo.

Alexsei is a web-based platform that produces legal research memos on demand for lawyers, and leverages the latest advances in machine learning and natural language processing to make knowing the law easy and affordable.

Given the current global pandemic as a result of COVID-19, we at Alexsei have decided to help by producing and distributing covid-related memos free of charge to help lawyers during these uncertain times. We’re calling this research series “COVID Research”.

For more free of charge COVID-19 related memos, please check our blog

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