Hybrid Work Policy Demands in PSAC Strike: Navigating the Shift

Hybrid Work Policy Demands in PSAC Strike

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has been on strike since April 19, after two years of negotiations with the Canadian government over a renewal of its members’ contract. Among various other items, PSAC is asking for hybrid work policy and remote work arrangements to be incorporated into the contract, an increase in wages overall, and wages for overtime.

What was the prevailing approach to remote work and hybrid work policy in contracts prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?

With respect to office workers, unionized or non-unionized and prior to COVID-19, working remotely was the exception. For this reason, many contracts from that era either specified that you worked in the office or were silent on the matter altogether. In general, if a location of work is not specified in your contract, your employer could request that you work from the office.

What are some reasons employers allowed employees to continue working remotely even after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted?

COVID-19 created a new set of norms. In many cases, employees who were allowed to work from home during the pandemic have continued to work primarily from home, long after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted. This was also the case for workers who obtained jobs with organizations that had offices or headquarters further afield than they were able to commute. Employers permitted this for many reasons, including greater worker satisfaction and productivity, flexibility for both employers and workers, access to a larger talent pool, and retention of employees. Now that the tables have turned and the labour market is tighter, employers are feeling more confident about returning workers to the office.

In employment law, the longer an employer allows employees to work from home, the more likely it is that remote working becomes a term of their employment agreement, requiring fresh consideration (i.e. a bonus or another benefit for the employee) or consent to be amended. In PSAC’s case, although it is a labour law, and not an employment law scenario, the length of time these workers have been away from the office successfully (or not) performing their jobs will be a key factor in coming to an agreement.

If you have questions about employment contracts, we encourage you to reach out to an experienced employment lawyer. Whitten & Lublin are here to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you are looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (647) 946-1278 today.

Author – Carson Healey