What is the Right to Disconnect?

Setting boundaries; we’ve all heard of it (most likely on social media or in self-help books)!

But now the Government of Ontario wants to set boundaries in the workplace.

This is following in the footsteps of European countries such as: France, Portugal, and Northern Ireland.

Bill 27, also known as The Working for Workers Act, received Royal Assent and became law on December 2, 2021 leaving many employees and their employers confused as to how far the “right to disconnect” really goes.

The implications of this Bill include changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA). It will require employers with over 25 employees to have a written policy allowing employees to “disconnect” from work, including: work-related emails, video or phone calls, or any other types of after work messages.

With Covid-19 and the prominence of remote work creating a lack of divide between office and home-life, it is no wonder that some employees are experiencing burnout and the inability to just shut off.

The right to disconnect is being communicated as the employee’s right to not have to respond or communicate with their place of employment outside of their specific work hours. It aims to change expectations of employers with regards to response times and promote a healthier work environment.

The practical issue, of course, is the enforcement of such a policy on employers. We expect specifics and more information are to come.

Until then, employers are encouraged to re-visit and re-evaluate their workplace policies and practices to ensure they meet these new obligations. 

Covid-19 has forced us all to adapt, especially employers with implementing mask and vaccine policies. Next to add the list is a comprehensive and specific disconnect policy where work-life balance can be implemented and encouraged for employees. This is not only to prevent burnout but to boost productivity and avoid unnecessary legal consequences. A mutually beneficial policy can help ensure the longevity of healthy employee-employer relationships.

Maria Grubisic, Associate Lawyer