Published April 4, 2020 (Updated September 1 2022)
How Do I Refuse Unsafe Work?
Under most circumstances, workers in the Yukon have the right to refuse hazardous work. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic you may feel that you are being asked to perform work that’s unsafe. Please remember that to exercise this right you must first report to work. Failure to report to work if directed to do so could lead to loss of pay or disciplinary action.
Under the Yukon Workers' Safety and Compensation Act, a worker has the right to refuse work when they have reason to believe that a condition exists in the workplace that constitutes an undue hazard.
The first stage of a proper work stoppage for hazardous work occurs as follows:
- the employee reports to work and notifies their supervisor that they are refusing to perform the work under the Workers' Safety and Compensation Act
- the supervisor completes an investigation of the situation with a representative from the workplace health and safety committee or with a worker of the employee’s choice.
After the investigation, if the worker feels the hazardous condition remains, the following must occur:
- the worker continues to refuse the hazardous work, but remains in the workplace
- the supervisor must contact the Yukon Workers Workers' Safety and Compensation Board (YWSCB)
- the YWSCB will conduct an investigation and order any corrective actions or deem the situation safe.
During the investigations, as a worker you:
- remain at work in a safe place during your normal working hours
- are compensated as time worked for your normal working hours while you wait for the investigation to be completed
- may be assigned alternate work by your employer
- must be informed by your employer that there is an ongoing work refusal if you are asked to perform duties subject to a work stoppage
If several workers feel the work they are being asked to perform is hazardous you may all refuse and you may feel safer doing so together. Each worker must refuse work as an individual. A worker cannot refuse on behalf of his or her colleagues.
If you are considering refusing hazardous work you are encouraged to contact YEU immediately. While there cannot be retaliation, your decision to refuse may attract attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. A work stoppage can lead to discipline if YWSCB determines the right was abused.
Be aware that you cannot refuse work if doing so would place the life, health, safety or physical well-being of another person in danger. This may apply to you during the COVID-19 pandemic particularly if the work you do is deemed critical or essential.
If you are a YEU member at Air North concerned about your health and safety, please reach out to your shop steward or your YEU Labour Relations Advisor as the rules for workers in the airline industry are different from those of other YEU members.