Did it ever happen to you that you were sitting idle at your desk for weeks on end while getting paid? Sure, it may feel good to get paid to do nothing but at a certain point, it’s going to start to get old. You will stop deriving pleasure from your work (there is no work) and you will begin to wonder if your days within the organization are numbered. Career advancement? Forget about it. However, is an employee entitled to get work from their employer or is your only choice to simply get up and quit without a severance package?
In the past, there were recognized exceptions to the employer’s duty to provide work. The duty to provide work was reserved to employment contexts where there was a perceived benefit from the actual performance of the work. For instance, if you were an actor, a radio or television performer or a top executive who derived reputational benefit from the work, the law would imply the obligation to provide work.
In the last decades, however, Canadian employment law has recognized work as one of the most fundamental aspects in a person’s life and an aspect of a person’s sense of identity, self-worth, and even emotional well-being. While the recognized exceptions were not done away with, they are now regarded as useful indicators that an employer has implied contractual obligations. As a result, employers do not have unfettered discretion to withhold work from their employees either in bad faith or without a justification, and to the extent that such a notion was ever valid, it has been overtaken by modern developments in employment law.
The Bottom Line
As such, we can say that if your employer fails to provide you with work, that action of withholding work may constitute constructive dismissal. It will not matter what type of job you have or do. For instance, an administrative assistant or high-ranking manager will both have an implied right to perform the work. This is because the common law has changed so that now an employer cannot withhold work from an employee either in bad faith or with malice or without justification. Whether this is the case will be determined based on the context of the matter and the facts at hand.