Ontario becomes first province in Canada to have right to disconnect legislation

By Heather Wright and Daniel Otis

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June 4, 2022 (TVC network) — Turn off notifications and put your phone on silent: In the interest of work-life balance, a new law is now in effect in Ontario that gives employees the right to ignore emails, messages and calls at work after hours. As of June 2, Ontario employers with 25 or more employees must have a written policy on logging out after hours. The so-called ‘right to disconnect’ rule was part of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Workers’ Labor Act, which passed in late 2021. It’s the first law of its kind in Canada. “Disconnecting from work” means not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, phone calls, video calls, or sending or reviewing other messages, in order to be free performance of work,” explained the 2021 legislation. Ontario Labor Minister Monte McNaughton previously told CTV News that the law “was created in response to the increasingly blurred lines between work and home” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new rules in Ontario apply to all employees, including managers and executives. Company policies should clearly outline expectations, where applicable, regarding communication outside of working hours All employers in Ontario with 25 or more employees as of January 1, 2022 must have a written policy as of June 2. Employers with 25 or more employees as of January 1, 2023 must have their policy into force no later than March of this year. Starting in 2023, all employers with 25 or more employees must have a policy in place by March of that year. Ontario is the only province with a right to disconnect law. Quebec and the federal government have also explored the idea, but have not yet tabled a bill. Such laws were first introduced in France and have since been adopted by only a small handful of countries, including Italy and Slovakia. Critics, however, say Ontario’s legislation falls short and doesn’t address what many workers actually want. “What they should really be looking for is flexibility in the workplace,” Bryan Smale, a professor in the Department of Leisure and Leisure Studies at the University of Waterloo, told CTV News. “As long as they complete their tasks, it gives them more flexibility; it gives them a better work-life balance and improves their well-being. The law has also been criticized for its lack of practicality and its lack of key details such as enforcement and penalties. Still, mental health advocates say such rules are a step in the right direction for maintaining a work-life balance and disconnecting from the digital world. “It allows those who may be struggling, or who have a toxic workplace or a difficult workplace, to have something in their toolbox to initiate and support them,” said Dr Shimi Kang. , a Vancouver-based psychiatrist, to CTV News. After five years in the insurance industry, Stacy Tang quit to start her own graphic design business for better hours and the ability to disconnect from work. “Sometimes I get that [notification] after work and I feel anxious just hearing it,” Tang told CTV News from Toronto. “It’s so hard to unplug these days, especially with technology so accessible, and then with your boss knowing you have access to the system after work.” Under Ontario law, failure to follow the new rules could be enforceable under the province’s Employment Standards Act.

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Matthew Talbotmatthew.talbot@bellmedia.ca