September 15, 2004

Are there restrictions on an employer’s right to suspend staff?

Question: Are there restrictions on an employer’s right to discipline non-union, salaried employees by administering an unpaid “reflection leave” (in other words, a suspension). We have considered this, but there is nothing in any employment agreements or employee handbook that reserves this right for the employer. Are there dangers to this approach?

In Ontario the law is relatively clear that if the employer has a policy with respect to imposing suspensions on employees, which arises out of an employment agreement, policy manual or past practice, then you as the employer have the right to do so.

However, if you do not have such a policy, it is important to remember you can implement a new policy at any time instituting such a right provided you give reasonable notice of the change. There is nothing to stop an employer from implementing such a policy by advising all employees of the change and the reason for needing the extra disciplinary measure, and telling the employees the change will take effect in a specified period of time.

This period of time can be for a minimum of six months to a maximum of two years, depending on the actual length of service of most employees. You can contact a lawyer to get specific advice with respect to the implementation of such a policy, which will be determined on the basis of the particular employment details of the employees involved.

Peter Israel is the senior partner in the Toronto law firm of Israel Foulon LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers. He can be reached at 416-640-1550 or pi@israelfoulon.com. A version of this article originally appeared in the Carswell publication, Canadian Employment Law Today.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice, which in all circumstances must be tailored to the specific facts of any problem. You should obtain a proper legal consultation in order to determine how this article applies to your specific situation.
Please feel free to contact Israel Foulon LLP to learn more at 416-640-1550.

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