Leon sits down with Michael Sherrard, recognized as one of Canada’s leading employment and labour lawyers, to talk about the return to work, both in terms of legal mandates but also social and moral ones: how do we best support our employees health and safety, while seeking to build company connection? Michael also wades into the murky waters of vaccine mandates and whether or not such measures are needed or legally possible.
Acclaimed for his broad range of expertise and strategic excellence, Chambers Global® says “Michael draws praise for satisfying the needs of even the most demanding clients and his specialist knowledge of union contract and negotiation issues where he is described as “exceptional” and impresses with his “phenomenal” work.”
Michael is frequently published and asked to chair or speak at international and national conferences. He is the recipient of several awards including the Construction Institute of Canada’s Chancellor’s Award of Excellence, University of New Brunswick Alumni Award of Distinction, USports Lester B. Pearson Award, and Canadian Franchise Association Volunteer Leadership Excellence Award.
Sherrard Kuzz LLP is one of Canada’s leading employment and labour law firms exclusively representing the interests of employers. Recognized nationally and internationally our team is consistently named among Canada’s Top 10 Employment and Labour Boutiques (Canadian Lawyer®), Canada’s Leading Employment & Labour Law Firms (Chambers Global®, Best Lawyers®, Who’s Who® and Legal 500®) and Repeatedly Recommended (Lexpert®).
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If you’d like to listen to some of our past webcasts, we have recordings on our COVID-19 resource page (https://peo-leadership.com/covid-19-resource-centre/). Guests have included University of Toronto’s Janice Stein, Harvard’s Rosabeth Kantor. We’ve talked about such topics as mental health, rent negotiations, the stimulus package and a host of others.
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Special thanks to focus asset management for helping us be you today's PE leadership's snippet podcast Welcome to our snippets podcast I'm Leon Goren, CEO an president of PEO leadership Nor h America's premier peer to pe r network and leadership adviso y firm. Today we welcome Micha l Sherrar, managing partner t Sherrar - Kuzz. Michael as been a longtime member f my peer advisory board Pat 4 and a huge resource to many of our PEO members over the last decade. We've been very fort nate to have him by our sides a we all had to deal with OVID-19 government legisla ion and restrictions, changes o those restrictions. And of course, their implication to our businesses. Michael's b en very busy, busy, to say th least. But he also has a fantas ic life outside of the law pro ession. In fact, I used to spe d hours with Michael on the corr dors of a typical Olympian wai ing for kids to swim their race , and I mean hours because t ey swim every two to thre hours. Michael's married to Rhonda, also an attorney wor ing for sure, sure. arquus. nd they have two daughters. ichael, it's great to have you with us today. Leon, thanks fo having me. Good to see you. I 's good to see you as well. So I thought we kick it off. And I' e known you for quite a while So pre COVID. Michael, you in t e firm, you are working, you'r always working always craz . We're always strategizing t ying to figure out okay, how do e build this? How do we leve age her hours reduced hours? No we get hit by COVID. And I now the last 15 months, you uys are have been insane. You'v almost had to ramp it up to another level. And I'm curious, ctually how you did that. Cuz I now you guys are like you're wor ing all the time, I wouldUnknown:
Yeah, it's certainly been busy. So we'd say we've been really fortunate. Some of us would say for lawyers, as long as you've got a laptop and a phone, you can function. So I yeah, I, we have been busy. When we look back that one of the one of the collateral benefits, if there's any good things that have come out of COVID is that we've really jelled as a team, we have, we have an internal call every second day at noon for about anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending upon when what's going on and what the issues are. But we've had a significant amount of people from the firm we'll have, we'll have 30 people on those calls at any given time, trying to brainstorm and in sort of exchange experiences, so it's really helped us get to best practices, briefing notes. It's really been a team environment. And it's really brought us together, I think in terms of people who participate in all those efforts.Leon Goren:
When you eventually all come together, or maybe you're not going to come together, what is the back to work look like? Do you as a firm going forward?Unknown:
I yeah, I think I'd start by saying, I'm not sure. I'm not sure it's gonna look like anything we imagined back in March of 20. I don't see us going from 100 miles an hour outside the office, to everybody being back in anytime soon. I think, as you've heard everybody talk about some kind of hybrid model. Because the other part of this, and it's probably the same for a lot of the members that I get to kick things around with in pack, four, and some of the other pack group's talent can walk with its feet. So there's an interesting balance here in terms of, if you've let people work from home for let's call it 12 to 18 months, your desire to have them all return and be face to face 100% of the time, I think is going to be challenging, and I think it's going to be challenging for a law firm or professional services as well. So, you know, the first thing we're gonna do is, brainstorm, give people lots of notice of our intention to do something different than we're doing today. And then well, I want to be consistent with how we do it, you're still going to have to deal with individualizing, some of the circumstances that you meet, and I think all of us are going to have to do that. Because again, to have professional services right now, compensation is moving up. There's a war for talent. Young people are getting phone calls every second week from headhunters. So I think we're going to be have to be cognizant of those kind of things, as opposed to simply saying, everybody's got got to be back at work on Monday. I just don't think that's in the cards for a lot of us.Leon Goren:
It's funny because I grew up in a professional service from because I came up the CIA route and and the most memorable times were the times you when you first start right, the first few weeks and you sort of get on boarded and meet everyone, there was a social element. And you actually learned a lot, right? Because you spent time with individuals in the law firms that would be the same I mean, how do you work that into your even a hybrid model? Because some people are there, some people won't be there. What are you going to do with your new recruits?Unknown:
So a good example for us is we have a fairly strong summer student program so kids who have just finished first You're law school or second year law school. And so when we on boarded them this year, it was a combination of some sessions on zoom like we're doing now. And some sessions spread out in a boardroom, with all those kind of peepee, safety precautions that you're used to that we've all had to figure out, distancing and hand washing and masking and so forth. But again, it was a bit of a combination, and it was giving people a choice. So it's, it's far from what we're used to. But you know, students as an example, and maybe that's the younger generation who are living in the smaller condos, they were anxious to be on site, anxious to start to meet people face to face. So I think we found a way of continuing hybrid meeting on site where possible, and then giving some people choice. That was the luxury we lived in to begin at least this most recent summer onboarding.Leon Goren:
Yeah. Again, I know in the early days, when COVID hit, you were a huge resources to resource to us. And then in the middle of you were a huge resource. I know you've been dropped into groups today. If I'm thinking now, like we're in the summer, but come this fall. You think thinking about business owners? Are those running these businesses? What are two of the three things that you think that they need to be aware of in regards to employee where they, you know, working within the bounds, because there's so many questions around legal obligations and how you treat your employees, forcing, you know, can you force them leaving to come back to? All these questions are so new? I'm just curious, because you're right on the front line, what are some of the big things that are, we should expect or be thinking about today?Unknown:
I think, let me give you two or three, the first one in my mind is something we call the duty of care. I think Canadians get caught up in the Ontario Employment Standards Act, the British Columbia labor relations code, Ontario's Human Rights Code, duty of care sort of is an umbrella on all of these and duty of care, we think of what does an employer owe the employees in whatever given circumstance the employer might put them in. So when when employers are thinking about ramping up and getting back to work, physically, and so forth, I think there's a legal obligation that comes from this duty of care, we all have these, you know, comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act comply with public health directives. But over the overarching piece is duty of care, and what is the standard of care in the given circumstance? So that's my legal piece. My piece is, we have to convince people, I think employers have to convince people that we want you to come back in some hybrid form. And we're going to keep you safe. We're going to do everything we can to make sure you're safe. So that that's what our policies around vaccinations, what are our policies in the office? As things seem to free up a bit? Do we still have to wear masks? Do we still want to have hand washing stations? Do we still socially distance? What am I going to do with a person who usually travels? What am I? What am I obligations around my my duty of care for that person who I'm going to send to Asia, the US to Mexico to British Columbia? And so I think for employers, that first thing is duty of care. How do I keep them safe? And then for every leader, this I think this for me, it's the most uncomfortable thing? I think leaders have to communicate, even if they're not positive of the exact correct answer. I think some of us want to, I want to get it right before I say anything. And I think that vacuum, the amount of time it takes to get that answer perfect, hurts us. So I think leaders have to be out there communicating and listening effectively, even when they're not yet comfortable. Because the vacuum hurts you more as an employer, I think. So there's a couple of things to think about. Watch the duty of care, lead, communicate. And then the other one I've said before, this one sounds a little bit. I don't know where it fits. But for me, it fits. leaders have to have a whole bunch of patience, and be really good listeners in this time. And the only way you can do that, from my perspective is if you treat yourself well to you find a way to make sure you're rested. And that maybe sounds small, but I find if we're not rested and taking care of ourselves, it's very hard to take care of others. And leaders really need to think about Where's your balance is are there some things you can get back to whether that's cycling or going to a gym or watching a movie or yoga, whatever you used to do? Is it possible to get back to some of that so that when you get that, you know the same question for the 20th time. Will you have the patience that you need to haveLeon Goren:
coming on, I think you just hit it over that hit the nail right on the head, because I think it's true. I think all of us have gone through this 15 months, not just your employees, we are one of those individuals as leaders have gone through and you're right, everyone is tired. And when you think about communication and listening, the more tired You are the less patient tip patients you typically have. And so I agree with you 100% need to take care of yourself first. And then second. Also think about how you're going to take care of everybody else. The one last question, I don't know if there's the right answer, but you open the can with this vaccination thing. And I know you can't Can you really you can't enforce people having vaccinations coming back to the workplace here in this country? Can you? Or can that be a policy like I heard Western saying, if you're gonna live in residence, you must have a vaccination. But that's different than your workplace environment.Unknown:
Sure. The the think the advice we've been giving is you can have a policy, and you should have every employer from my perspective on this vaccination piece should have a policy about it. And you can start with the concept of a mandatory policy. But I think in practice, that's going to be challenging, I think there's very little support in our country, let alone in Ontario, to have somebody as a condition of employment, be mandatorily vaccinated, it's one thing to get them tested, tested right there, the rapid testing or a PCR test. It's another thing to now say, I'm going to put something forcibly inside inside your body as a condition of coming to work. Our governments haven't yet given given any guidance that suggests they're going to say it's mandatory. We've seen a little sliver in the long term care industry, because they would say the vaccination might be a bonafide occupational requirement, if they get some scientific background to it. I don't think Ontario employers or Canadian employers are going to have the benefit of mandatory. But I think what behooves us, and I've heard some of our members thought, right, our path sessions, really, best practices come out of the ideas we hear from our peers. And I still remember somebody saying, we're going to use we're going to advertise and educate and influence. And we're going to let our workforce try to do that in a respectful manner, as well spend all our energy trying to be that advocate. I walked into a gym the other day, and it said, if you go get a vaccine, we're going to give you two weeks of free membership. And you know, so people are being creative, and trying to Joel and influence as opposed to mandate. I think in them, the last thing I'll say is, at the end of the day, if somebody wants to come to the workplace, and they're not vaccinated, I think I think one of the things that will be a long term issue is we will still have some what we call p PE, responsibilities in terms of how we keep everybody safe. So it's, and you look at the end of the day, right? The first thing people say is, what about vaccination availability? And and Well, I know we've improved and it's ramping up, I still think I heard in the last 24 or 48 hours, some shortages of specific kinds of vaccines. So you have to take that into consideration. So I think he does everything he can to educate an influence as opposed to mandate or dictateLeon Goren:
my goal. That's great, thank you so much for just joining us and sharing your insights with us today. That was awesome. Leon. Thanks for everything you do. I appreciate being part of the group. While we love having you part of the group. If you're interested in our live webcast, the way forward live and or any other snippets please take a moment and visit us at PEO dash leadership comm you'll find into on our site various pre recorded webcasts which include guests such as Morgan housel, Professor tennis Stein, Rob chestnut, Dr. Greg wells, the list goes on. We've covered topics such as Mental Health Leadership, the world reset, and a host of others. There's also a week trial. If you think you're a senior leader, he will think you are a senior leader, your business owner or CEO. Take a look at that eight week trial and see if you want to give us a shot. I want to thank you all for joining us today and we look forward to seeing you again shortly. Take care