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Naturally, parents are concerned about the health and safety of their children and many would prefer their kids to continue online learning while they work from home, just as they were permitted in the early stages of the economic shutdown. However, employees are increasingly facing recall as the country moves through its various reopening stages, and more businesses are allowed to require them to return.
The obligation to attend work when recalled even extends to school pickups and drop-offs. If busing is available to take students to school, and most school boards across Canada will be offering that, parents do not have the right to change their work schedules to facilitate the personal pickup and drop-off of their children at school.
Finally, what about teachers? Can they refuse to attend the classroom? The answer is, like any other employee, no, unless they can prove that the workplace is objectively unsafe.
If they challenge the safety of the workplace, ultimately, either they or the school board can invite an inspector to determine the workplace’s safety. If the inspector determines it is safe (and almost all rulings across Canada have gone in favour of employers), the teacher must return or face discharge for abandonment, that is, if the school boards behave like many private-sector employers and proceed to dismissal.
Got a question about employment law during COVID-19? Write to me at [email protected].
Howard Levitt is senior partner of Levitt LLP, employment and labour lawyers. He practises employment law in eight provinces. He is the author of six books including the Law of Dismissal in Canada.