Labour laws and regulations across Canada need to be updated to reflect the new remote working reality, according to a new study by the Fraser Institute.
“Just as technological change has made many production procedures and skills obsolete, it’s not surprising that many of the labour policies are, too,” said Jason Clemens, executive vice-president of the Fraser Institute, in a press release.
The study, authored by Morley Gunderson, professor emeritus with the University of Toronto’s department of economics, predicts up to 25 per cent of the Canadian workforce is expected to continue working remotely after the coronavirus pandemic ends, with an additional 10 per cent likely to work partially from home. While that’s significantly lower than the approximately 40 per cent of Canadians who were working from home during the early days of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, it’s still a substantial portion of the workforce.
Current employment standards legislation, as well as workers’ compensation and health and safety regulations, were designed when the vast majority of Canadian employees worked onsite and thus are due for an update, noted the report. “Laws designed for large, structured businesses just don’t make sense when people are working from home,” said Clemens. “Employment standards regarding work hours and breaks, for example, are impossible to enforce when employees work remotely.”
Working remotely has many benefits for employees, including reduced commute times, productivity gains, more control over their working environment and improved worker satisfaction, said the release.
The study recommended that policy-makers focus on removing legal and regulatory barriers that prevent even greater uptake of remote work in Canada, such as adopting flexible municipal zoning regimes that would allow for more remote work. “If the remote working conditions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that some Canadians are able to thrive when working from home,” said Clemens. “To encourage even greater telecommuting, policy-makers should update outdated labour laws and regulations to reflect the changing needs of Canadian workers.”