An employer’s right to train (On law)

Developing employee skills through training is important, but what happens if an employee refuses?
By Genny Na
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/03/2008

Generally, employers have the right to manage and reorganize the workplace as they see fit, subject to the terms of any applicable collective agreement. This includes the right to change business processes and introduce new technology or new systems of operation.

If an employer orders an employee to train on a new system, and the order is lawful and reasonable, the employer has a right to expect the order will be obeyed. An employee’s refusal to obey a reasonable order would constitute insubordination. However, it is important to note the directive to train must be unambiguous. Condoning the refusal to train, such as allowing an employee to work despite the refusal, could eliminate any consideration of insubordination.

An unreasonable training order would include one that endangers the health and safety of an employee or that is not within the reasonable scope of an employee’s work. If an employee argues he has sufficient work already and training on something new is not needed, it is important the employer ensure the training is, in fact, necessary. As well, an employee should be paid for training and not be penalized for the inability to complete existing assignments while undergoing training. To reduce the risk of a constructive dismissal claim, an employer should also avoid saddling an employee with an unreasonable amount of extra work as a result of introducing a new system.