As we start to wrap up 2022, workplace law continues to move at an unpredictable, quick and sometimes wacky pace.

Both managers and employees alike are burnt out and struggling to find their feet in the new post-pandemic norm. Employers and managers are having to adjust to a different style of management as employees are demanding new standards in the workplace. The ability to work remotely, the right to disconnect completely (hello Bill 27!) and having a clear line in the sand about what their job is (#quietquitting) are becoming the rules and not the expectations.

Employers are facing three main trends post-pandemic:

  1. stress & harassment complaints
  2. contract instability
  3. labour shortages

Stress & Harassment Complaints

The pandemic left most of us a bit shaken. Workplaces are still recovering from the instability, health concerns and tragedies, divisiveness around vaccine policies and other ripple effects from living through the pandemic. As employment lawyers, we have seen such an uptick in mental health leaves and harassment complaints, typically connected to everybody being so stressed out. 

The main takeaways from this have not changed post-pandemic, but remain as important as ever:

  • Stressed out employees often lead to stressful harassment complaints
  • For all harassment complaints, hear both sides of the story and never assume one employee owns the truth until you’ve heard from everybody. We never stop being surprised at what can be a completely different set of facts and perspectives on the same issue. This due diligence remains critical in both understanding what the truth is and in being able to rely on the findings of an investigation for any discipline.

Contract Instability

In what is likely just a coincidence of bad timing in an already unprecedented era, over the last couple of years, termination clauses continued to be attacked and set aside by the courts. 

Enforcible contracts continue to be the most effective workplace tool for certainty, clarity and calm around exits. Legally-compliant and reasonable termination clauses, agreed-upon upfront while everybody still gets along, go a long way in avoiding or containing an employer’s overall litigation exposure.

The main takeaway:

  • If you have not had your employment contracts reviewed by an employment lawyer within the last year, this is a great New Year’s resolution to consider.

Labour Shortages

Labour shortages and employee absences, in general, continue to be one of the most urgent issues affecting the day-to-day operations of so many of our clients. In the new world of remote work, much of our local talent can get a great job with a US company paying in US currency while remaining here in Canada. 

Employees have both options and leverage. Employers know they need to approach performance management issues with some additional nuance in this new workplace era. While employees are facing the cash crunch of inflation, employers are equally facing the impact of a likely recession. We are in economically challenging times, after such a challenging pandemic era.

Our final takeaway:

  • Nothing can replace effective, clear old-fashion human communication. 

In this moment of uncertainty and worry about the looming recession, inflation, and overall burnout from the last couple of years, employers and employees are on edge. One of the biggest challenges is that it can be hard to communicate the facts and rules when the facts and rules are unknown or ever-changing. This means it’s more important than ever to keep employees in the loop as much as possible. 

The vast majority of cases that come through the door at our firm are some version of broken telephone, where the parties misunderstood each other. We rarely find employers who are trying deliberately to harm their employees. Rather, there is an ongoing balance to maintain between business stability and employee workplace satisfaction. 

Wherever possible, ensure you are scheduling regularly recurring one-on-ones with your team members, along with larger townhall-type group meetings. Despite whatever uncertainties and lack of answers your business may be facing right now, communicate early and often. Transparency and communication tend to at least minimize many disputes.

Our next webinar will review the top legal trends of 2022. We hope you will join us as we walk review another year of busy employment law developments.