More Canadians Are Refusing To Work Because Of COVID-19 – But It’s Difficult To Get Authorities To Agree


As more and more workplaces open up, Canadians are faced with the challenge of going back to work after saying it for months and that can be dangerous.Data on refusals to work reported to provincial labor authorities shows that there has been a spike in the number of people who formally refused to work citing unsafe conditions. But practically none of these refusals to work is maintained, which may illustrate the reluctance of the existing labor laws allowing COVID-19 to be treated.

All provinces have passed laws allowing people to refuse unsafe work. But fear of contracting COVID-19 is not enough to justify a refusal to work, and neither are the risks associated with travel to and from work, illustrating the challenges that Canadians face, as they balance their exposure to the virus, with return to the office or factory.

As some Canadians struggle to find out if it is safe to return to their jobs, the provinces are moving forward with the reopening of plans to see more Canadians return to their places of work.

Phase two of the reopening Ontario includes personal care services like hair salons and day spas, as well as shopping malls and outdoor restaurant terraces. Quebec is the reopening of lounges, restaurants, gymnasiums, stadiums and indoor and outdoor pools in the regions of the province.

As more and more companies start calling their employees back to work, provincial laws that are about to be tested as authorities try to balance the economy with keeping workers safe of the pandemic.

Workplace concerns

SRC asked the provinces for COVID-19 refusal to work data related to concerns such as inadequate remoteness or lack of protective equipment.

Refusals to work are reported to the Ministry of Labor or Work Safety Commission, depending on the province, which sends an inspector to decide on the refusal.

WATCH | Employment lawyer tackles tough questions about returning to work:

“The test is: Is it objectively dangerous? Said Howard Levitt, in response to a question about whether employees can refuse to return to work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 5:01

Ontario saw the largest number of work refusals: 280 from January to June. Of these, only the one related to COVID-19 has been found to meet the criteria of Health and Safety Law, according to the Ministry of Labor, Training and Skills Development.

The only confirmed case in Ontario involved a worker at Berry Mondiale, a plastic packaging plant in Scarborough. The refusal to work came after another employee came to the factory after a possible exposure to COVID-19. The ministry issued a plant order “to take all reasonable precautions to protect workers.” The company has no further details to add.

There have been COVID-19 linked to refusal to work in other provinces as well, although the numbers remain low.

In Quebec, there were 21 refusals related to COVID-19. Only one was retained. It involved an immunocompromised employee in a workplace where they could not obtain reliable information on the health status of their colleagues, according to Quebec’s health and safety at work commission. The commission did not identify the workplace.

Refusal to work an important process for the protection of

Katherine Lippel, a legal expert at the University of Ottawa, said formally refused to work for safety reasons, he said, to launch significant protective measures.

“What you need to know is that when someone exercises the right to refuse unsafe work, even if the exercise is not restrained, there are protections under the law that no one gets,” she said. .

For example, their employer has tried to work with them at the hazard address, and the worker can temporarily stop working and protect themselves. If the problem is not resolved between the employer and the worker, then the provincial inspector steps.

Katherine Lippel, a workplace safety expert at the University of Ottawa, says vulnerable workers need better protections during the pandemic. (Presented by Katherine Lippel)

Lippel, who is the Canada Research Chair in Health and Safety Law, has an upcoming paper to examine some of the challenges facing workers during the pandemic. She says there are structural deficits in the protection offered to workers to return to work.

They include: the risks encountered in the workplace (for example using public transport), which is generally not the responsibility of the employer, and protections for people with underlying medical conditions which make them more sensitive to COVID-19.

Unions frustrated with the process

Unions have been keeping a close eye on these issues as their members have worked through the foreclosure. Food and Commerce Workers represents approximately 70,000 workers in Ontario, many essential services such as grocery stores. They also represent workers in other hard-hit industries, such as tourism.

“We were a little frustrated with some of the processes in Ontario, as most of the work refusals that were made and processed by the ministry did not result in orders or were followed,” said Tim Deelstra, UFCW spokesperson in Ontario.

“And for that the process is a little frustrating, because it is obvious that the workers who are on the front line of this situation are concerned about their health and well-being and that they want to believe that they have options available to them if they are interested. ”

Deelstra says their members have been involved in nearly eight applications refusal to work applications in Ontario, in retail grocery stores and in meat processing industries.

The Ontario Labor Ministry said that “large portions of COVID-19 work refusals were initiated by workers who have limited rights to refuse work under the OHSA. “These are employed in sectors such as health care and correctional services, where refusing to work” directly endangers (s) the life, health or safety of another person. ”

The ministry says that even in these cases, inspectors can still investigate the complaint if a risk is identified.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here