Ontario could soon make it illegal for your boss to bug you at home after-hours
Ontario's provincial government wants to give residents the "right to disconnect" from work when they're off the clock — which, as obvious and sensible as it sounds, is something many office employees are no longer guaranteed in today's hyper-wired world.
Labour Minister Monte McNaughton announced legislative changes Monday morning that, if passed, would not only promote a healthier work-life balance in the province, but prevent companies from implementing "unfair non-compete agreements" that restrict future work opportunities and suppress salary increases.
"COVID-19 has changed the way we work, leaving too many people behind, struggling to put food on the table and make ends meet for their families," said McNaughton of the government's newly-proposed Working for Workers Act, 2021.
"We must act swiftly and decisively to put workers in the driver's seat and begin rebalancing the scales. Today's proposed legislation shows Ontario is ready to lead the way into the workplaces of tomorrow and create the conditions that will make talented, innovative people want to work in our great province."
McNaughton says that changes proposed under this legislation would make Ontario the best province for people to work, live and raise a family. If passed, it would be the first law of its kind to exist in Canada.
Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, makes an announcement about legislation to support workers in Ontario. https://t.co/K1KYyY3yEj— Ontario At Work (@ONTatwork) October 25, 2021
The "right to disconnect" concept has been attracting more interest in North America since remote work exploded last year, and had already inspired legislation in France, Italy and Spain well before the pandemic.
Canada's federal government established its own Right to Disconnect Advisory Committee in 2020 to explore the possibilty of such a law in our country, noting in a backgrounder document that "constant connection... carries health risks for employees when it is not balanced against the need for rest."
"By requiring employers with 25 employees or more to develop disconnecting from work policies, Ontario is prioritizing workers' mental health and family time," reads a release issued by the provincial government on Monday of its proposed legislation.
"These workplace policies could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren't working."
Also included under the act are previously-announced measures such as ensuring that food delivery workers can access restaurant washrooms and helping internationally-trained professionals practise their skills in Canada (as opposed to driving cabs or other types of work they are technically overqualified for).
The first “right to disconnect” legislation in Canada, I believe. https://t.co/BbCjuGESVK— Danica McLellan (@danicamclellan) October 25, 2021
Per the province, here are all of the measures proposed under the new Working for Workers Act:
Summary of proposed changes to employment regulation in Ontario, including:— David J. Doorey (@TheLawofWork) October 25, 2021
- ban non-competition clauses
- mandatory “right to disconnect” policies
- mandatory access to washrooms for delivery workers
Working for Workers Act, 2021 https://t.co/CMZBtCBGia
Alongside the Act, the province says it is also investing billions of dollars into programs that will futher protect, support and attract Ontario workers.
This includes some $84 billion in ongoing work to expand transportation options, $4 billion to bring high-speed internet to all Ontario communities and further supports for the widespread adoption of virtual health care.
"Ontario cannot be a province where people burnout from endless work and family time comes last. We need to give our workers a break," said McNaughton on Monday of the proposed legislation's splashiest bullet point.
"When you're off the clock. You're off the clock. Everyone should be able to unplug at the end of their work day because people are more than their jobs."
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