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Can my employer change the nature of my work during the coronavirus pandemic?
I work in a food store in the bakery. The workload has been cut. My employer is trying to deploy me to stock shelves and clean the floor. Can I refuse? Can I ask to leave work until the pandemic is over?

Can my employer change the nature of my work during the coronavirus pandemic? - Answer

The law in BC says you can refuse to work if it presents an “undue hazard” to the health and safety of any person. An undue hazard is an “unwarranted, inappropriate, excessive, or disproportionate” risk — one that is above and beyond the potential exposure someone would face through regular, day-to-day activity. 

During the pandemic, you’re on solid ground to say you’re concerned that cleaning duties would put your health at risk. Best to discuss the situation and your concerns openly with your employer to work out a path forward. 

Otherwise, if your job hours were cut significantly (for example, from full time to just 15 hours a week), or if your employer makes a major change to your job duties, this would be considered constructive dismissal. You would be entitled to severance pay from your employer.

If you haven’t already applied for employment insurance, the government advises you should apply for the Canada emergency response benefit (if you’re eligible), and BC’s special worker’s benefit. We walk you through eligibility and the application process here.

David Kandestin
People's Law School
Reviewed April 2020

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