Eliminating company credit cards for expenses

Stuart Rudner

Question: Is it legal to expect employees that once had a corporate credit card to now cover weekly travel expenses on their own personal credit card?

Answer: To begin with, there is no law that would prevent an organization from having a policy of this nature. While some organizations provide corporate credit cards, most do not, and employees incur expenses for which they are reimbursed.

This question relates to a change in practice. Since a change to the terms and conditions of employment can be a constructive dismissal, it is important to assess any risk before imposing such a change. To constitute a constructive dismissal, there must be a substantial change to a fundamental term of the agreement. It is difficult to see how a claim of constructive dismissal based on this set of circumstances could succeed, unless the employee could show that the change would have a substantial negative impact on her. For example, if the employee routinely incurs extensive expenses that she cannot afford to carry until they are reimbursed, that might be cause for concern. Otherwise, it is unlikely that this kind of alteration to the employer's practices will be enough of a change to the terms and conditions of employment to constitute a constructive dismissal.

That being said, the employer would be prudent to provide reasonable notice of the change prior to implementation, clearly informing employees of the change and providing details of the new policy — for example, how to obtain reimbursement, the expected turnaround time for reimbursement, and how expenses will be approved. Since employees may wonder why the change is being implemented (and if it is an indication of the financial condition of the organization), they may want to explain the rationale.

Stuart Rudner is a founding partner of Rudner MacDonald LLP, a Toronto-based employment law firm. He is the author of You’re Fired: Just Cause for Dismissal in Canada published by Carswell, a Thomson Reuters business. He can be reached at [email protected] This article was co-written by Geoffrey Lowe, an associate with Rudner MacDonald. Geoffrey can be reached at [email protected]

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