Employees coming to work in extreme weather conditions

Keeping the office open when the roads are dangerous
By Stuart Rudner
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 06/29/2011

Question: Could an employer face any liability if it stays open during very bad weather conditions for which authorities recommend staying home and an employee gets in a serious accident trying to get into work?

Answer: As readers will know, employers have certain duties to ensure the safety of their employees while they are at work. These duties have been augmented recently in various jurisdictions, such as Ontario, which has resulted in an increased focus upon employee safety and, in particular, the prevention of violence, harassment and bullying. That said, generally speaking, an employer is not responsible for ensuring an employee’s safe passage to and from her place of work. Different principles may apply when an employee is asked to travel to different locations, either locally or globally, in the course of their duties. However, employees are still ultimately responsible for getting to and from work safely in most situations.

In the hypothetical situation described in the question, there are dangerous conditions. However, as most Canadians know, conditions can vary greatly from one neighbourhood to another. During our recent winter, I was in London, Ont., during a snow and ice storm that made the roads particularly treacherous. At the same time, the roads in Markham, Ont., where I base my practice, were not particularly dangerous.