The 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Committee (“VANOC”) recently launched an “employee loan program”, which, according to the news release, offers “businesses and governments the opportunity to give their employees a once-in-a-lifetime professional experience through working temporarily for the Games.”1 VANOC has expressed that it has approximately 1,500 jobs to fill in 32 different departments in order to cope with the additional workforce demand. The program was described by Dave Cobb, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President of VANOC, as a “win-win situation for everyone” and the news release states that loaned employees will have the opportunity to “broaden their skill set, while getting all the benefits of being a Games-time worker such as an official uniform and a lifetime of memories, secure in the knowledge that their regular job will be there to return to when the Games draw to a close on March 2010.” Some of the available positions that have been identified include: Delivery Driver, Performer Service Coordinator, Energy Deputy Manager, Sport Writer, Transportation Manager and Venue Communications Centre Manger.2
So what does this mean for employers wishing to participate in the program by “loaning” or “seconding” their employees to VANOC for the Winter Games? Although complete details about the secondment opportunity have not been released by VANOC, there are a few legal issues employers should bear in mind when considering whether or not they wish to provide their employees an opportunity to work for VANOC during the games, whether on a loan or volunteer basis.
Constructive dismissal occurs when an employer makes a unilateral change to a fundamental term of the employment contract. Where an employee is found to have been constructively dismissed, the employee is entitled to treat the employment contract as having been terminated and the employee has all the same rights under the law as an employee who has been terminated without cause. With this in mind, here are a few things to consider:
- The decision to participate in the “employee loan program” and to second employees to VANOC during the Olympics should be a mutual decision of the employer and employee and should be documented by a written agreement.
- Employers should be careful that a seconded employee’s regular wages are not reduced during the secondment period without the employee’s consent and the employee’s benefits should continue during the secondment period.
- Employers should ensure that there is no gap in a seconded employee’s Workers’ Compensation coverage during the secondment period: if such coverage is not provided by VANOC, then the employer should continue coverage.
- During the secondment period, employers must ensure that they do not unreasonably expect and unilaterally impose a requirement on their remaining employees to put in overtime to make up for the absence of the seconded employees.
- Hours of work for seconded employees with VANOC may be different or longer than the employees’ normal work schedule. Ensure there is a clear understanding between all parties as to how requests for extra work time is to be managed and paid for.
The foregoing list, while not exhaustive, is meant to raise some legal issues for employers to consider if they are thinking about participating in the “employee loan program”. However, the issues raised above apply not only in the context of VANOC’s program, but in all secondment scenarios.