Home Workplace News Toronto’s transit strike was avoided – but it raised questions among workers, employers about handling sudden disruptions

Toronto’s transit strike was avoided – but it raised questions among workers, employers about handling sudden disruptions

by HR News Canada

Commuters in Toronto were spared the chaos that would have come with a strike by TTC workers — idling buses, streetcars and subways — after the two sides reached a last-minute deal.

But the uncertainty raised questions for workers and employers alike: What happens if staff can’t get to the workplace because of circumstances beyond their control?

“Employers should have a contingency plan in place to ensure the business can continue to run smoothly, regardless of any sudden challenges that may arise” said Ed Matei, legal counsel at Peninsula Canada, a consulting firm that provides HR and health and safety compliance support to employers.

What an employer can (and should) do is keep lines of communication open. Inform employees about the situation and the measures that are being taken as soon as possible, it said. Encourage them to communicate their concerns and difficulties.

There are a few things employers can consider limiting workplace disruption. Offering remote or hybrid work options, if they don’t already, could help employee avoid peak commute time and reduce the stress of trying to figure out an alternative way to get to and from work.

Below are some recommendations from Peninsula Canada on how to properly manage absences due to sudden changes.

Non-culpable absence

While termination without cause is always an option, that does not necessarily make it a good option. Employers should distinguish between culpable (blameworthy) and non-culpable absence (non-blameworthy).

Culpable misconduct may justify disciplinary action in line with progressive discipline principles. However, non-culpable breach of workplace rules may call for a non-disciplinary approach. In the event of a sudden travel disruption, employers should advice employees about occasions where lateness or absence will be non-culpable and, thus, not subject to discipline.  

Absence and pay

Employers in Ontario are not required to pay employees when they do not attend work due to a travel disruption unless the employment contract or workplace policy states otherwise.

The Employment Standards Act (ESA) in Ontario does not provide for a leave for commuting difficulties. To prevent employee income loss, employers may apply unused paid vacation time to the absence, or apply banked lieu time acquired through overtime, or reach an agreement to work extended or replacement hours on another occasion to make up lost time (hours of work limits and overtime pay still apply).  

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