'Give our workers a break': Ontario proposes right to disconnect from work law
Published Monday, October 25, 2021 10:10AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 25, 2021 3:38PM EDT
Ontario is proposing new legislation that would encourage employees to disconnect from the office and sustain a healthier work life balance.
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton introduced the Working for Workers Act on Monday, which would require employers with 25 employees or more to develop policies that give workers the right to disconnect.
“Ontario cannot be a province where people burnout from endless work and family time comes last. We need to give our workers a break,” McNaughton said.
McNaughton said examples of these policies could include setting expectations for email response times and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working.
“When you're off the clock. You're off the clock,” McNaughton said. “Everyone should be able to unplug at the end of their work day because people are more than their jobs, they are mums and dads, volunteers for local charities, members of faith communities, and so much more.”
The proposed legislation would also prohibit employers from using “unfair” non-compete agreements, which McNaughton said often restrict employees from taking new jobs in the same field and subsequently result in suppressed wages.
The province says this change would help workers advance their careers and earn more money without penalty. Meanwhile, employers’ intellectual property would still be protected through narrow clauses.
Expert says new law could ‘cause havoc’
Employment lawyer Howard Levitt told CTV News Toronto the province’s proposed legislation “doesn't really solve the problem.” Instead, he suggested the government “might be virtue signalling.”
“It's another example of legislation that accomplishes nothing,” Levitt said.
He pointed to his own office as an example. “In my law firm, I've actually disciplined employees for disconnecting,” Levitt said. In a recent example, he said an employee disconnected from work for the weekend while a client was enduring a major crisis.
“It depends on the nature of the business,” he said. “It would be devastating to my clients in particular if we just disconnected.”
Levitt said already existing legislation, such as overtime laws in Ontario, ensure employees who work after hours are compensated.
“What benefit is this legislation? It's simply enunciating what the law already is.”