Ontario proposes right-to-disconnect legislation

Working for Workers Act would also ban non-compete agreements

Ontario proposes right-to-disconnect legislation

In a first for Canada, Ontario is introducing legislation around the “right to disconnect” and work-life balance.

The Working for Workers Act, 2021 would require employers with 25 employees or more to develop “disconnecting from work” policies. These could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we work,” says Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, training and skills development. “We must act swiftly and decisively to put workers in the driver’s seat and begin rebalancing the scales.”

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

Ottawa recently invited stakeholders to participate in an online consultation on the state of gig work in federally regulated sectors and a “right to disconnect”.

Non-compete agreements

The proposed legislation will also prohibit employers from using non-compete agreements. These types of contracts often restrict employees from taking new jobs with another business in the same field after they leave the company, says the government.

“The proposed changes would ban this unfair restriction to help workers in Ontario advance their careers and earn more money. This would also give the province a competitive advantage in attracting global talent. Employers would still be able to protect their intellectual property through narrower clauses.”

Many non-compete, non-solicitation and confidentiality agreements aren't enforceable anyway, says Laura Williams, founder and principal of Williams HR Law.

Employee poaching is a very common practice, says Melody Kasulis, senior creative project manager at Skynova, in an interview with Canadian HR Reporter.

“I don’t feel like people are paying attention to these non-competes closely enough.”

Many of the changes were the results of recommendations made by the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee, based on their consultations with workers, employers, and unions.

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