Mapleton council approves work-from-home policy

MAPLETON – Council here has approved a formal policy that will allow some employees to continue working from home, even after pandemic-related restrictions are eased.

The policy was approved following a report to council by Mapleton CAO Manny Baron on Feb. 24.

“Since March 12, 2020 we have been battling COVID-19 in one form or another, we have been closed for business, placed into various coloured guidelines and most recently were in lockdown for 28 days,” Baron states in the report.

“Staff have been working from home on and off during this time and we believe it is time to formalize the process.

“I believe our staff continue to be very efficient when not in the office and this is something we can explore in the future to help continue being the employer of choice.”

The policy indicates requests by employees to work from home will be considered on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of township department heads.

It also contains a provision reserving the right to discontinue the program at any time, individually or as a whole, with a minimum of one week notice of program cancellation.

“Essentially we’ve been working from home on and off since, I believe March 12 of last year,” Baron told council.

“We really didn’t have a policy to cover our staff … it was just kind of, ‘When is this going to end?’”

Baron said staff reached out to other municipalities and found few in the area had formal work-from-home policies.

However, they found a policy implemented by the Township of Wellington North that could work for Mapleton with a few modifications.

“I don’t feel that this (working from home) will stop in the very near future, so I think it covers us,” the CAO stated.

“That way it shows our staff that we indeed do care about their workspace at home.”

Baron suggested the work-from-home option could be a useful recruiting incentive.

“We have a goal of being the employer of choice … major companies have been doing this for a while,” he noted.

“Even after COVID I would like to continue with his policy. We have staff that are working from home that are extremely efficient from home,” Baron pointed out.

Mayor Gregg Davidson asked how many staff members could be expected to be working from home at any given time.

“Right now it seems to be working out about 50/50 and it seems to be working well,” said Baron.

“I see the work that staff are pumping out in their home offices. It’s quite incredible.”

However, he noted, “Obviously customer-facing staff wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.”

Baron also explained that home-based staff would be required to come into the office for meetings upon request and could be required to work from the office for longer periods if needed for special projects or other reasons.

“If somebody’s working from home and, God forbid, if they were injured somehow, would they be covered by WSIB?” asked councillor Dennis Craven.

“It all depends on the adjudicators,” said Baron. “I’d have to look at that further for sure and get an answer.”

Craven also asked if the township would be able to “inspect” at-home workplaces.

“No. We hire the right people. We hire the right staff. I think we need to trust them,” Baron responded.

Councillor Marlene Ottens said, “It’s interesting to me that COVID has brought forward some changes in our lives that are actually positive and working from home is one of them.”

She added she supports the policy “as long as it doesn’t negatively impact the township, or customer service.”

Councillor Michael Martin asked if working from home would be entirely voluntarily, or if managers could assign staff to work from home.

“I don’t think we would dictate it,” said Baron.

“It should be a personal choice … I don’t think it’s fair to assign someone to work from home.”

A motion to approve the work-from-home policy was approved unopposed.