This month, Ontario became the first Canadian jurisdiction to require many employers to create a policy relating to an employee’s right to disconnect after hours. This “right” is often understood as the right of an employee not to be expected to engage in business activity outside of working hours (e.g. answering work calls or emails).
These new rules in Ontario were enacted pursuant to Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act 2021 and apply to employers with at least 25 employees. Employers have until June 2, 2022 to establish their policy if they had 25 employees on January 1, 2022. The required content for the policies has not yet been specified.
Other countries, including France and Spain, have enacted laws relating to an employee’s right to disconnect.
In some industries and businesses, after hours work is not easily avoidable (e.g. healthcare and law enforcement, etc.), but in others it can be managed more carefully. Although there are no requirements to have this type of policy in BC, it is a good idea for employers to consider how they manage or monitor after hours work.
Sometimes employers do not intend or expect their employees to respond to emails after hours, but they do not take any steps to discourage this when they see it occur on a regular basis. In that type of scenario, creating clear expectations in a written policy can be a benefit for employee mental health and employee retention. Also, employers expose themselves to potential overtime and other legal claims if they are aware that their employees are regularly working after hours and they permit it to continue.
All of this is very relevant with many employees still working remotely. Employers should have remote work policies in place, which set clear expectations for hours of work. Employers should also monitor whether their employees are regularly working outside of regular hours, to reduce their risk of overtime and other legal claims.