On December 2, 2021, Ontario became the first province in Canada with a right to disconnect from work stated in law as the Employment Standards Act (ESA) was amended after Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act, 2021, was passed.
But what does that mean for workers and employers in Ontario? This post provides a summary of this relatively new law and its impact on the workplace. For more information about your right to stop working after completing your workday, or any of your rights in the workplace, contact the leading employment lawyers at Soni Law in Toronto. They are employment law specialists that are trusted by employees, employers and trade unions alike.
A good starting point to understand the new law is to look at the legal definition of the “right to disconnect.”
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What Does the “Right to Disconnect” Mean?
The right to disconnect, as it appears in the Employment Standards Act, is defined as “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work.”
What is Required by Law Regarding the “Right to Disconnect”?
As of this writing, the only requirement of an employer is that they have a written “right to disconnect” policy in place. The following are a few of the rules around that policy:
- Employers with 25 employees or more are required to have a written policy in place for all employees regarding their rights to disconnect from work.
- This includes part-time employees and those usually exempt from ESA rules, such as supervisors and IT personnel.
- An employer, however, can have different policies for each group or level of employee.
- Beginning in 2023 and in each subsequent year, all employers who had at least 25 employees at the start of the year must implement a disconnect from work policy by March 1st.
- Employers with less than 25 employees do not have to implement a disconnect from work policy even if they hire new staff during the year that brings them over 25 employees.
- Conversely, employers cannot rescind a policy if the number of employees drops below 25 during the year.
- Employers must provide a copy of the policy to all staff within 30 days of its implementation or amendment.
Employers must also retain a copy of each policy for at least three years after it expires.
The New Law Does Not Create a New Right
As stated in the Government of Ontario’s written policy on disconnecting from work:
“the ESA does not require an employer to create a new right for employees to disconnect from work and be free from the obligation to engage in work-related communications in its policies. Employee rights under the ESA to not perform work are established through other ESA rules.”
In other words, despite the headlines, the new law does not give an employee the right to disconnect. It only gives workers the right to a written policy, a policy that can be exactly the same as it was before the new law was passed.