Ontario’s right to disconnect policy is now in effect. Here’s what you need to know:
Late in 2021, the province enacted Bill 27: Working for Workers Act, 2021, that requires employers with 25 or more people on staff as of Jan. 1, 2022 to have a policy as of June 2 that outlines how they will ensure workers are able to disconnect from the workplace after hours.
What does it mean to disconnect from work?
The Act defines disconnecting from work as “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or sending or reviewing other messages, to be free from the performance of work.”
What does this policy mean for employers and employees?
- Employers must provide staff with a written copy of the policy.
- The policy applies to all employees, including management and executives.
- Starting in 2023, employers with 25 workers or more will need to have a written policy on disconnecting from work in place before March 1 of that year.
- For employers with multiple locations, all workers across locations must be included in the count.
“Most [employers] are starting out with very generic policies because people are still mentally trying to grasp how all of this works,” said Bettina Burgess, a partner in labour and employment law at Gowling WLG. Ms. Burgess said there was a general consensus among her clients that they were not going to be able to have a one-size-fits-all policy on employees’ right to switch off from work.
“The legislation has forced employers to start thinking about what constitutes an emergency,” said Stephanie Little, a consultant with the Toronto-based human resources consulting firm Bright + Early. Ms. Little said her clients have included language that encourages employees to disconnect, but are careful to not explicitly mandate when that disconnection should happen. One of the actions Ms. Burgess has told her clients to take is start attaching FAQs to their policies.
How did we get here?
Inspired by a 2016 law giving workers in France the right to turn off electronic work devices outside of business hours, Canada’s federal government started reviewing labour standards and mulling whether to give workers the right to ignore work-related messages when at home in 2018.
A committee convened in October 2021 was expected to analyze the issue and provide then-labour minister Filomena Tassi with recommendations in the spring of 2022. But the province opted not to wait for federal regulations.
To view more examples of new policies, read the full article on the Globe and Mail website.