Does Your Workplace Have a Right to Disconnect Policy YetTeam
In Ontario, the Working For Workers Act (“Act”) came into effect on October 21, 2021. With this legislation receiving royal assent, various changes to employment standards became effective.
One significant change is the so-called Right to Disconnect. While the Right to Disconnect does not grant substantive rights for workers in the sense of creating minimum standards for employment, it recognizes the growing need and importance of disconnecting from the workplace.
What is a Right to Disconnect Policy?
The Right to Disconnect came into effect with the passing of the Act and is included in the Employment Standards Act (“ESA”).
The Right to Disconnect requires employers to prepare a policy that addresses disconnecting from the workplace. Disconnecting from the workplace may include disengaging from various work-related communication or any activities related to work performance. It could mean turning off the phone, shutting down the computer or any other measures to disengage from real-time communications related to work.
The newly passed legislation grants employers great flexibility in the preparation of Right to Disconnect policies. Employers simply have to prepare and distribute policies. Further, not all workplaces or employees may be subject to a Right to Disconnect policy.
Does your workplace need one?
While all employers are encouraged to prepare a policy, the ESA only requires certain workplaces to have one.
The Right to Disconnect only applies to workplaces that have 25 or more employees. Employees that are part-time or full-time are included in this measure. In certain circumstances, employees that are laid off but not terminated may also be included in this calculation.
Employers that operate their business or any portion of their business in Ontario are required to have such a policy. If a business maintains 25 employees within Ontario, then the Right to Disconnect will apply in that workplace. Employers with less than 25 employees may still prepare a policy. This may be good practice for employers who anticipate growth in operations.
It is also important to note that under the ESA, an employee is not an independent contractor. The distinction is not dependent on an employer’s determination but on various factors that are considered. As such an employer’s calculation of how many employees they retain may sometimes be incorrect and they may be in violation of the ESA.
The Right to Disconnect was enacted as a recognition of the fast-changing landscape of the post-pandemic workplace. The shift towards remote or hybrid workplaces, while beneficial in many ways, may also disrupt the work-life balance of many employees.
Your workplace may be required to have a Right to Disconnect policy if it meets the following criteria:
- 25 or more employees
- Operates in Ontario
- Workers are not independent contractors
If you are unsure about whether the Right to Disconnect or any other section of the ESA, applies to your workplace, our team of experienced employment and human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us, toll-free, at 1-800-771-7882 or by emailing us at [email protected], as we are happy to assist.