Rented workplace in disrepair

Rented location not looked after by landlord
By Stuart Rudner
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 05/30/2012

Question: If the owner of a building, in which an employer is a tenant, doesn’t keep everything in good repair, are there health and safety implications for the employer? What can the employer do to protect both itself and its employees?

Answer: This question raises landlord and tenant concerns along with occupational health and safety issues. All provinces have occupational health and safety legislation that is aimed at protecting employees. Some statutory provisions specifically consider the physical workplace while others are so broadly drafted that they include all elements of the jobsite. Most create a duty upon employers to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of their workers.

Occupational health and safety legislation also includes refuse to work provisions. Section 43(3)(b) of Ontario’s act, for example, permits an employee to refuse to work if the physical condition of the workplace is dangerous. Employers who are tenants in a building that has fallen into a state of disrepair may therefore find themselves with employees who refuse to work, along with investigations and potential discipline under occupational health and safety legislation.