The Virtual Shift - who is “essential” and do they really need to work onsite?

  • April 02, 2021
  • David Mousavi, CCCA Executive member and general counsel of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board

The COVID-19 Pandemic has been challenging for businesses and their in-house counsel to say the least.  Government mandated lockdowns, Stay-at-Home Orders, and physical distancing regulations were introduced throughout various times of the pandemic - each measure requiring a significant degree of legal interpretation and strategic planning to ensure continued business operations while keeping everyone safe.

For businesses, shifting virtually to work from home emerged as one of the best ways to achieve these objectives.

For those businesses where employees’ working on-site was not necessary, the virtual shift was welcomed and may very well likely continue, in some form, well after the pandemic’s end.

For many other businesses however, working virtually was not a viable option. On-site equipment or resources inherent to the work function of the employee simply would not lend themselves to the virtual shift.

But what of those instances where businesses preferred their employees to be onsite for productivity, organizational culture, or some other reason?  In those instances, who determines exactly what type of work must be done onsite rather than what could be carried out at home  While this would seem like a simple matter, discussions with fellow in-house counsel would suggest a large degree of ambiguity and confusion.