While right-to-disconnect legislation provides employees with a clear definition of their expected work hours, governments have to be careful they aren’t overly regulating because people have different ways of working productively, says Elaine Gringauz-Yedlin, chief operating officer of corporate benefits at Johnston Shaw Inc.
“I have two young children and sometimes during the day I get distracted, so for me the best time to sit down and catch up on things might be around 9 p.m. after everyone’s in bed. Nobody’s forcing me to do that, but for me, it’s what works best.”
Ontario’s new right-to-disconnect legislation — which took effect on June 2, 2022 — requires employers with 25 or more employees to have a written policy about workers disconnecting from their job at the end of the workday.
“If there are employers out there that have been [pushing employees] to work nonstop and expecting many things from them outside of regular hours, that’s where this legislation is going to be impactful,” says Gringauz-Yedlin. “It will provide some protection for employees so they can get that break and maintain a proper work-life balance.”
However, the one thing governments can’t legislate is people’s behaviour, she adds, noting some of the onus is on employees to be able to actually stop and walk away from work.
Across Canada, most other provinces and territories have yet to make any significant moves toward similar legislation. However, Quebec was inspired by Ontario’s decision, with Québec Solidaire introducing Bill 799 regarding the right to disconnect in December 2021. If implemented, it would require employers to develop a clear disconnection policy. As well, companies with 100 or more employees would be required to develop that policy jointly with employees.
Prince Edward Island is currently undergoing a comprehensive review of its Employment Standards Act. Although the right to disconnect isn’t currently included in the act, the Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture anticipates the topic will form part of the review, according to a statement sent to Benefits Canada.
At this time, Nova Scotia has no plans to amend the Labour Standards Code to include a right-to-disconnect policy or legislation. That said, the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration is watching the evolution of the working environment in the province and across Canada very carefully to ensure it meets the needs of Nova Scotians, according to a statement sent to Benefits Canada.