Right to Disconnect Policies Now Mandatory in Ontario

Working At Night

If you are an employer who had 25 or more employees on January 1, 2022, then by June 2, 2022 your organization was required to adopt an implement a Right to Disconnect Policy. If you have not done so yet, the right time now! The new requirement does not require your organization to provide a new right to employees to disconnect at a particular time, nor does it make any changes to overtime thresholds or limits on hours of work already found in the Employment Standards Act, 2000. Instead the intent is to have employers explain their expectations surrounding workplace communications, with particular regard to the time of day and subject matter of workplace communications.

What must a Right to Disconnect 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 people know when they can expect a reply from an employee.

When and how must the Policy be Prepared or Provided?

The policy must be prepared by March 1 of any year in which an employer, on January 31 of that year, has 25 or more employees. Employers with 25 or more employees on January 1, 2022 must have prepared their initial policy by June 2, 2022. Note that if during the year the number of employees you employ falls below the threshold, you are still required to maintain a policy for the duration of the calendar year.

If you have not yet done so, now is the time to put a policy together.

Once a policy is prepared, or after any revisions to an already existing policy, employees must be provided with a copy of that policy within 30 calendar days. Newly hired employees must be given a copy of the policy within 30 calendar days of being hired.

The policy can be provided in paper format, or in an attachment or electronic folder, provided the employee is able to access the policy and print it if they wish to do so. A Right to Disconnect Policy can be included into an already existing employee handbook.

Applicability of Policy

The policy must apply to all employees in Ontario, including regular employees, managers, executives, or any shareholders that are also employees. However, the policy can apply differently to different employees in the organization depending on position, department, duties, etc. The policy must cover all employees, but does not need to be identical for all employees provided there is some good business reason for the differences.

Record Keeping

Employers are required to retain a copy of every disconnecting from work policy that they have implemented for a period of three years for the date the policy is no longer in effect.

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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