The Ontario government is requiring employers with 25 or more employees to draft a right-to-disconnect policy.
The legislation, which passed on Nov. 30 but is yet to receive royal assent, means employers will be required to establish a written policy about employees disconnecting from their job at the end of the workday. The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario introduced the legislation as part of the Working for Workers Act 2021 in October ahead of seeking re-election in June 2022.
These right-to-disconnect policies could include “expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working,” said a press release in October.
“Through the passage of this legislation, Ontario is ensuring our labour laws keep pace with the acceleration of new technology, automation and remote work,” said Monte McNaughton, the province’s minister of labour, training and skills development, in a separate press release. “We are protecting workers’ rights, while positioning Ontario as the top destination for global talent and investment.”
At the federal level, during its re-election campaign this summer, the Liberal Party of Canada promised it would partner with federally regulated employers and labour groups to co-develop a right-to-disconnect policy for workers. And earlier this year, the federal labour minister said the coronavirus pandemic highlighted the need to give employees the ability to avoid work emails and text messages as the lines between home and work lives blur.
Portugal recently sparked debate over its new law on working from home, which bans employers from attempting to contact their staff outside working hours. They also must help staff pay for their home gas, electric and internet bills. And bosses are forbidden from using digital software to track what their teleworkers are doing. The law has critics asking many questions about how the law would work in practice and be enforced.
In recent years, many other European Union countries — including Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Spain — have also enacted right-to-disconnect legislation. The increase in remote working was already accelerating when the pandemic kicked the trend into high gear, which ultimately led provincial and federal governments in Canada to take a deeper look at the right-to-disconnect concept.
“I see this as a potential storm that is brewing in labour and so these converging trends are happening now and they’re becoming more rapid, more pronounced,” said Filomena Tassi this spring when she was the federal labour minister.