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Employees and Returning to Work

If I ask an employee to return to work and they say “no I’m scared and want to stay on unemployment for now” how do I handle that?

It gets a little more complicated with the offer of a return to employment and an employee who is reluctant or unwilling to return. The best course of action is to have a discussion to better understand the employee’s concerns. This will determine if an employee has legitimate fears that you can discuss and how you will protect the employee (as we know, employers have an obligation to provide a safe workplace).

Consider if the reasoning falls under any legal obligations under paid sick leave laws, other leave laws or disability reasonable accommodation. The employee may state that the risk of providing care in the current environment is too high and exposure due to an underlying medical condition or proximity to an at-risk family member could lead to serious consequences.

If you have offered an employee work, and they refuse because they would prefer to remain on unemployment, it is possible the claim for unemployment will be denied. In general, if an employee is able and available for work, they may be ineligible for unemployment benefits. The refusal of work could lead the employer to consider the refusal a voluntary resignation, I would be very clear with the employee about the implications of refusing work.


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