Budget 2024 proposes right to disconnect for workers

'Everyone needs some downtime; it is essential for well-being and mental health'

Budget 2024 proposes right to disconnect for workers

The federal government is looking to establish the legal right for workers to disconnect from work under Budget 2024.

The government is proposing to amend the Canada Labour Code (CLC) to require employers in federally regulated sectors to establish a right to disconnect policy that would limit work-related communication outside of scheduled working hours.

“Everyone needs some downtime; it is essential for well-being and mental health. As the nature of work in many industries has become increasingly digital, workers are finding it increasingly difficult to disconnect from their devices and inboxes after hours and on weekends,” according to Budget 2024. “This has particularly impacted Millennial and Gen Z workers, many of whom have worked their whole careers without firm separation between work and personal time.”

More than one-quarter (28 per cent) of Canadians have trouble disconnecting after regular work hours, according to a previous report.

Right to disconnect amendments to Canada Labour Code

To make the right to disconnect a reality, Budget 2024 looks to provide $3.6 million over five years – starting in 2024-25 and $0.6 million ongoing – to enable the Labour Program at Employment and Social Development Canada to implement legislative amendments to the CLC.

This will change the unhealthy “always on” lived reality for many Canadians, says Chrystia Freeland, deputy prime minister of Canada and minister of finance.

“One of the realities of life for all Canadians, but particularly for younger Canadians, is this experience of always being on, always available. It’s not healthy, it’s not a good way to live,” Freeland tells reporters, according to a Global News report.

“It’s not even the way to be the most productive.”

The change is expected to benefit up to 500,000 employees in federally regulated sectors.

Employers and unions are somewhat divided when it comes to crafting a right to disconnect policy for federally regulated workplaces, according to a previous report.

Why is it important to disconnect from work?

Each person can be affected differently based on factors such as frequency and duration of work, the nature of the job, etc., says the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

“Having uninterrupted personal time away from work stressors allows your body and mind the opportunity to relax and recover.”

The centre notes that the benefits of workers being able to disconnect include:

  • happy, healthy, more productive staff
  • higher job satisfaction and staff retention
  • positive organization reputation
  • reduced incident rates, lost time, and workers’ compensation claims

Meanwhile, an individual who does not sufficiently disconnect may experience any combination of the following:

  • poor work/life balance
  • work-related musculoskeletal disorders, including the impacts of psychosocial factors
  • occupational injuries
  • fatigue
  • burnout
  • poor mental health effects such as stress, depression, anxiety, etc.

And according to the CCOHS, an employer that does not allow their workers to disconnect sufficiently may experience more:

  • workplace incidents, workers’ compensation claims, and lost time
  • turnover
  • errors and quality decline
  • negative company reputation

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