The pandemic has hit many workplaces with decreased demand for their services, which in turn affects the availability of work for employees. Employers may attempt to justify a reduction of hours on the basis of the pandemic, and employees may see this as a reasonable justification. However, reduction of hours and consequently pay is not permissible. Employees have two practice options here.

A reduction of hours or pay, if significant enough, is a fundamental change to employment. Employees can treat this fundamental change as a termination to their original terms of employment, and in turn, quit and claim constructive dismissal. The law here would view quitting in the same way as a wrongful dismissal, because the terms of the original employment (ie. greater set hours or pay) were changed by the employer. Quitting here would entitle an employee to the same severance as if the employer chose to end the employment relationship.

Alternatively, an employee may choose to stay with the change in hours but doing so would affirm the new employment arrangement. Choosing to do so may have its own merits, including being a reasonable alternative to what an employee would be owed as severance. However, allowing time to pass under such employment changes would be viewed as an employee affirming or consenting to the change of hours or pay, and thus prevent a constructive dismissal claim down the road. Employees must act timely if they wish to obtain a severance for the change in their hours or pay.

It is important to seek a consultation with an employment lawyer if you are an employee faced with changes to your hours or pay. Even if you are limited to severance pay due to a termination clause, such clauses may be void which would entitle an employee to greater severance pay. Seeking consultation will allow you to make an informed decision and also ensure you are provided what is fairly owed.

Whitten & Lublin’s legal team can 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 (416) 640-2667 today.

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