Ontario's right-to-disconnect law takes effect

But many question necessity, efficacy of new rules

Ontario's right-to-disconnect law takes effect

Ontario’s law around the right to disconnect took effect June 3.

Under the rule, employers that employ 25 or more employees on Jan. 1, 2022 have until June 2, 2022 to have a written policy on disconnecting from work.

Also, beginning in 2023, employers that employ 25 or more employees on Jan. 1 of any year must have a written policy on disconnecting from work in place before March 1 of that year.

“Disconnecting from work” means 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 the performance of work, according to the government.

The government detailed the right to disconnect under the Working for Workers Act, 2021, which Ontario passed in November 2021.

Canadian HR Reporter spoke with legal experts who questioned the reasoning behind Ontario's right-to-disconnect proposal, citing employee preferences for flexibility and the challenges of enforcement.

Mixed reactions

However, several stakeholders on LinkedIn had differing reactions to the coming into effect of the law.

There may be a need to expand the coverage of the rule, says Erin Bury, CEO and co-founder at Willful.

“Did you know it's only mandatory for companies with 25+ employees? I was shocked to hear that since startups are often the worst offenders for toxic work culture.”

Alise Docherty, a labour relations specialist at the York Region District School Board, says that people must “beware of employers who engage in a 'performative policy' and those who choose to alternatively send 'scheduled' e-mails”.

These are “blatant microaggressions,” she says, calling them “defeatist and in contradiction to the spirit of the legislation”.

A right-to-disconnect policy would be tricky to put in place and police, said Ronald Minken, founder and managing principal at Minken Employment Lawyers, in talking to Canadian HR Reporter.

Meanwhile, Ross Morley, principal at Global Technology Services, questions why people who can’t disconnect are allowing themselves to be bothered outside of work.

“I am astonished at the number of complaints I hear about people being bothered by emails and [text messages] during off-hours, which would of course be a non-issue if they simply didn't pick up their work phones and look at them. And if you can't avoid messages because you're using your work phone as your personal device, or vice versa - that's up to you, period.”

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