On October 25, 2021, Ontario introduced Bill 27, which if passed, would require that employers with 25 or more employees have a written policy with respect to disconnecting from work.
“Disconnecting from the workplace” is defined under the Bill to mean “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls, or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from performing work.” The law, if passed, will give employers 6 months to create and implement the policy.
The proposed legislation is meant to provide employees with greater work-life balance. With the rise of remote work, the line between work and private life becomes blurred. Studies have shown that remote work can lead to excessive hours, burnout, anxiety and difficulty meeting family responsibilities. This is likely to impact women the most, who often bear most of the family responsibilities.
Even though employees may be technically “off the clock”, they feel pressured to be constantly “on” and responsive. These excess hours often go untracked. Despite being available and working, employees are generally not being provided with overtime pay, which in many cases, is against the law.
Does the Proposed Law Go Far Enough?
The proposed legislation merely requires employers to maintain a written policy on disconnecting from work, but has little substance beyond that.
It provides no guidance on when and for how long employees have a right to disconnect from work and who may be exempted. This gives employers wide latitude to determine what arrangements are most suitable to the business. Further, the proposed law does not expressly prohibit an employer from dismissing or penalizing workers who exercise their right to disconnect under the policy.
By comparison, some European countries, including Ireland, France and Spain have already enacted the right to disconnect laws. Under Ireland’s right to disconnect laws, workers are entitled to not perform work or attend work matters outside their normal working hours. The law prohibits an employer from penalizing an employee for refusing to attend to work outside of normal working hours. Further, employees and employers have a duty to respect their colleagues’ “right to disconnect”, including not responding to emails when they are not working.
Bill 27 in its current form appears weak in comparison. The Bill gives lip service to the idea of work life balance. It does little, beyond managing worker expectations about their work schedule.
Do you have questions about your remote work arrangements? Speak to an experienced employment lawyer. Contact JPak by phone at 416.583.1920 or by email at: email@example.com
*This article is informational only and is not meant to be legal advice. If you require advice about your employment matter, please contact us about a consultation with our employment lawyers.