Turn off notifications and shut down your phone: For work-life balance, there is now a new law in Ontario that gives employees the right to ignore work emails, messages and after-hours calls.
As of June 2, employers in Ontario with 25 or more employees must have written policies on off-hours disconnection. The so-called “disconnection right” rule was part of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives’ Working for Workers Act, which was passed in late 2021. It is the first law of its kind in Canada.
“Disconnect from work” means not engaging in work communications, including e-mails, phone calls, video calls, or sending or viewing other messages, in order to be free from work, “the 2021 legislation explained.
Ontario Labor Minister Monte McNaughton previously told CTV News that the law “was created in response to the increasingly blurred boundaries between work and home” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new rules in Ontario apply to all employees, including managers and executives. Company policies must clearly outline expectations, if any, regarding off-hours communication. All employers in Ontario with 25 or more employees must have written policies as of January 2, 2022. Employers with 25 or more employees by 1 January 2023 must have their policies in force by March of that year.
Starting in 2023, all employers with 25 or more employees must have a policy in force until March of that year.
Ontario is the only province with the right to detach the law. Quebec and the federal government have also explored the idea, but have yet to come forward with legislation. Such laws were first introduced in France and have since been adopted by only a handful of countries, including Italy and Slovakia.
However, critics say Ontario legislation is lagging behind and does not address what many workers really want.
“What they really should focus on is workplace flexibility,” said CTV News Bryan Smale, a professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure at the University of Waterloo. “As long as they do their job, it gives them more flexibility; it gives them a better work-life balance and improves their well-being.”
The law has also been criticized for being impractical and short on key details such as enforcement and sanctions. Yet mental health advocates argue that rules like these are a step in the right direction to balance work and private life and disconnect from the digital world.
“It allows those who have it hard, have a toxic workplace or a difficult workplace, to have something in their toolkit that initiates and supports them,” said CTV News psychiatrist Dr. Shimi Kang from Vancouver.
After five years in insurance, Stacy Tang left to start her own graphic design to get better hours and the opportunity to disconnect from work.
“Sometimes I understand [notification] after work and I’m only scared when I hear it, “Tang told CTV News in Toronto.” Nowadays, it’s so hard to disconnect, especially when technology is so affordable and when your boss knows you have access to the system after work. . “
Under Ontario law, non-compliance with the new rules could be enforceable under the Provincial Employment Standards Act.
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