Work-from-home requirements in bad weather

Some employees have laptops, some don't
By Tim Mitchell
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 04/03/2019

Question:If some employees are provided with laptops, can they be required to work from home when the office is closed due to bad weather, while employees in similar positions who haven’t been given such equipment don’t have to work? If the employees are paid by the hour, are there risks to reducing the hours and therefore pay of the latter group because of bad weather?

Answer: The decision to close a business for the day due to bad weather rests solely with the employer. When faced with severe weather conditions, an employer has to balance the disadvantages of losing a day’s work against requiring employees to commute in potentially hazardous conditions. Whether employees are required to work remotely or telecommute, and whether employees will be compensated for days when the office is closed due to inclement weather, are largely issues that are determined in an employment contract or in workplace policies.

Generally, an employer will not be required to pay employees for days that the office is closed. The foundation of an employment relationship is that an employee trades her services to an employer in exchange for compensation. Subject to certain exceptions (such as a written policy, agreement or the provision of a collective agreement), as long as the employer informs employees before they report to work, the employer is not obligated to pay them on days when they are not providing services due to an employer’s decision to close the office for the day.