What employers need to know as right-to-disconnect law takes effect

14 June 2022 Consulting.ca 1 min. read

As Ontario’s new right-to-disconnect law takes effect, Patrick Stepanian, a legal manager at HR consultancy Peninsula Canada, highlighted some important points about the legislation.

The Ontario government passed the relevant legislation in November 2021, under which employers with 25 or more employees as of January 1, 2022 would have to put in place a written policy on right-to-disconnect by June 2, 2022. According to the government, the right-to-disconnect means not engaging in work-related communications – including emails, calls, or reviewing messages – so as to be free from the performance of work.

Such legislation, though seemingly a form or window-dressing labour protection that is eminently difficult to enforce, gained traction during the pandemic as a shift to work-from-home lengthened the perceived availability of workers to “all-day” as the home became the office. This contributed to elevated levels of burnout as workers battled various other stressors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What employers need to know as right-to-disconnect law takes effect

In 2023 and subsequent years, employers that reach 25 or more employees on January 1 will have to put in place a written right-to-disconnect policy by March 1.

Stepanian notes that “employee” includes homeworkers, probationary employees, some trainees, contract employees, employees on lay-off, employees on leave of absence, and striking employees.

As for the written policy, Stepanian says that all employees must receive a copy within 30 days of it being prepared, and new hires should be given a copy within 30 days of starting employment. The policy itself must include the date it was prepared and the date any changes were made, though the Employment Standards Act does not specify the information employers must include, as they determine the content of the policy itself.

“An example of what an employer can include in the policy can be expectations they have for employees to respond to any work-related emails or calls after work hours,” Stepanian said.