Right to Disconnect Guidelines Clarified

Frustrated Homeworker

We previously posted about this topic, and we asked at the time whether the “Right to Disconnect Policy” guidelines have been clarified by the Ontario government. The short answer has changed, and we can now report that that Ontario government has indeed clarified requirements – to an extent.

As of June 2, 2022, employers in Ontario with 25 or more employees will be required to implement a written “Right to Disconnect” policy.

A copy of the written policy will need to be provided to all employees within 30 days of being prepared or of any revisions to the policy.

Employers who employ 25 or more employees on any January 1 of any year following 2022 will need to have a policy in place before March 1 of the relevant year.

Are there rules on who counts as an “employee”?

Yes, the count should include any homeworkers, employees on probation, certain trainees, corporate officers who work for wages, fixed-term employees, employees on lay-off, employees on a leave of absence, employees on a strike and employees who are exempt from certain parts of the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Employers must include all of their employees in Ontario, regardless of location, so an employer that has multiple locations and the count of all employees meets or exceeds 25 employees, a policy is required.  

What does “disconnecting from work” mean?

The ESA defines disconnecting from work as meaning that the employee is not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, phone calls, video calls, messages and generally be free from performing work.

What must the Policy contain?

The policy must be specifically related to disconnecting from work. The date on which the policy was prepared, and the date of any changes must also be included in the policy. However, the actual content of the policy itself is to be determined by the employer.

Rather than setting specific requirements, the Ontario government has provided examples of a what a disconnecting from work policy might address:

  • Whether there are expectations that employees read or reply to work related emails/calls after the end of their shift.
  • The policy may include different expectations depending on the time of day, the subject matter of the communications, and who the communication may be with, for example with a client, a manager, or colleague.
  • Expectations regarding out of office messages, or voicemail messages, to let individuals know when they can expect a reply from the employee.

The rules do not establish a separate or new right for employees to disconnect from work. Instead, they are requiring employers to more clearly set out what their expectations are in terms of work hours, recognizing that employees are more accessible than ever thanks to rapid social and technological change. This is a laudable objective, because clearly set out expectations are usually beneficial both for employer and employee.

If you have any questions about disconnection policies, or indeed about employment law, human rights, workplace investigations, human resources, or immigration law, please contact Bridge Legal & HR Solutions at 647-794-5442 or at admin@bridgelegalhr.ca, we are here to bridge the gaps for you.

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