In November 2021, Ontario passed legislation on disconnecting from work (DFW). The goal of the legislation is to ensure employees have adequate time away from work, particularly in light of the blurring of work and personal lives accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The onus is now on employers to develop a policy that will implement the legislation’s requirements.
Below are key highlights on the legislation and what employers should consider as they prepare their policies:
Ontario is currently the only province to adopt DFW legislation, but the trend is likely to continue in other provinces. In fact, some employers with employees across Canada are already applying their policies nationwide in the interests of consistency and employee wellness, even though they are not required to do so.
The legislation does not create a right to disconnect — it only requires certain employers to create a written policy on disconnecting from work. What should be included in the policy is largely left to employers at this time.
The Ministry of Labour has provided some guidance on drafting a policy. Notably, while the policy must cover all employees, different expectations may apply to different categories of employees.
For a DFW policy to be meaningful, employers should consider making the policy part of its wellness programming. Managers need to buy in to the policy in order to encourage employees to limit after-hours communications. Employers may provide training on the policy, including email and messaging etiquette.
Certain European jurisdictions have similar legislation in place. Lessons learned from these countries could help Canadian employers in how they approach the new policy requirement. One key takeaway is there is no “one size fits all” solution. Commitment, flexibility and open dialogue are essential to the policy’s success.
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