Rebecca Wise on COVID-19’s effect on employment obligations

March 30, 2020

Senior Associate Rebecca Wise has told Canadian Lawyer that the two biggest themes she is seeing is payroll reduction and health and safety obligations, as businesses scramble to understand their responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What's legally permissible? What, practically, do they need to be doing? How do they ensure that their employees are taken care of, as best they can?” Rebecca said.

“There's no work available for a lot of workers. In Ontario, for example, the recent order shutting down non-essential businesses means that for a lot of businesses, there's actually no work to give to their employees.

“In other provinces where those orders haven't yet been issued, the reality is that contracts are getting cancelled, and business has slowed.”

But as the situation created by COVID-19 continues to evolve, Rebecca said she is making herself available clients to help them understand areas of uncertainty.

She said as lawyers, it’s their job to not just know the existing laws but also to be at the forefront of each development across legal, government and other sectors as they arise.

“It's a really uncertain time for both employees and employers — and as legal counsel,” she said.

“We’re trying to give practical advice that's grounded in the legal obligations that exist.

“But… this is a bit of an unprecedented situation. And how our laws are going to adapt to accommodate some of the issues that employers are facing right now is a real question mark.

“I think lawyers need to be… making sure that we're reading everything that comes out. And analyzing it, as it does come out, I think is a huge value add.”

Rebecca will present on the Canadian Lawyer webinar “Servicing clients' employment law needs in a COVID-19 landscape” on March 31.

At Torys, we understand the how the pandemic is presenting challenging and unique circumstances for businesses. We are keeping close watch on developments as they unfold, and have established a resource centre on our website, COVID-19 guidance for organizations, where you can find our latest updates for businesses navigating COVID-19-related issues.

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