ontario right to disconnect

You now have the right to ignore your work emails off-hours in Ontario

It's now officially legal to sit back, relax and ignore those pesky work emails outside of office hours. 

Ontario recently passed a "right to disconnect" law that went into effect last week, requiring employers with over 25 employees to have a written policy that allows their employees to disconnect outside of office hours — that includes not responding to emails, phone calls, video calls or sending messages — essentially being free of work-related responsibilities outside of work. 

The Ontario government proposed the legislative changes last year in the Working for Workers Act which, once passed, would:

  • Require employers with 25 or more employees to have a written policy about employees disconnecting from their job at the end of the workday
  • Ban the use of non-compete agreements that prevent people from exploring other work opportunities
  • Help remove barriers for internationally trained individuals to get licensed in a regulated profession and get access to jobs that match their qualifications and skills.
  • Require recruiters and temporary help agencies to have a licence to operate in the province to help protect vulnerable employees from being exploited.
  • Require business owners to allow delivery workers to use a company's washroom if they are delivering or picking up items.
  • Allow surpluses in the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board’s Insurance Fund to be distributed over certain levels to businesses
  • Enable the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to work with entities, like the Canada Revenue Agency, to streamline remittances for businesses
  • Allow the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to collect information related to the agri-food workforce to ensure the government can enhance the coordination of services such as vaccination and testing, and respond to issues that may arise.

Though many of us are obviously more than happy to hear the news, finally allowing ourselves to disconnect from work-related pressures when we come home, legal experts claim that the new law is very bureaucratic and that it doesn't cover significant new ground. 

The law simply requires employers to develop a policy with respect to the right to disconnect, not that employees are entitled to this right. Depending on the employer, their policy could very well continue to keep workers engaged after hours. 

It also doesn't erase the pre-existing pressures that many people have from their careers, feeling guilt when disconnecting - particularly during a staff shortage or throughout an urgent work situation. 

Responses on Twitter are varied. Many people are excited about the new law, wishing their own provinces would adopt something similar to help citizens maintain a healthy work-life relationship.

While others are a bit skeptical of how it's going to make any significant changes to how businesses have run before.  

Hopefully, this will pave the ground for more laws that help regulate and maintain a more healthy and sustainable work relationship.  

Lead photo by

Clement Lo

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