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Demystifying an employee’s “right” to disconnect

What Ontario employers need to know to be compliant with Bill 27

The pandemic brought many new realities for employers to navigate, one being Ontario is Bill 27, a new law that is erroneously being called the “right” to disconnect.

According to two associates from Emond Harnden, it’s not that simple. Patrick Twagirayezu and Neil Dzuba recently connected with OBJ’s Michael Curren to demystify what the legislation actually requires of employers.

1. What does the “right to disconnect” really mean, and what do employers need to do to be compliant with the law?

While the law was enacted to address the reality of hyperconnectivity and challenges to work/life balance brought on by the pandemic, it doesn’t actually give them the “right” to disconnect.

The law says employers with 25 or more employees must have a policy that documents their expectations regarding their employees’ connectivity after work. 

Curran’s key takeaways:

  1. It’s not illegal to contact your employees after work hours.
  2.  The requirement is simply to have a policy.

2. What should employers include and avoid in their policy?

The law recommends that employers consult existing legislation to craft their policies. 

Dzuba emphasized that employers should be careful not to grant employees the “right” that doesn’t actually exist in the legislation. 

“You’ve got to be careful you don’t extend a right beyond what the legislation was intended to do, because how are you going to roll that back?” he said.

Curran’s key takeaway:

  1. Employers should reach out and get professional help to craft their policy.

3. What does this mean for day-to-day operations?

“It’s kind of like looking into a crystal ball right now because it’s all so new to us,” said Dzuba.

That said, the policy will likely reflect what you’re doing right now and how your business already operates.

Curran’s key takeaway:

  1. It’s an opportunity to have an open discussion with a team of people about what the expectations are in terms of work.

To check out the answers to these questions from the live Q&A go to 25.46:

  1. Does the policy apply to both hybrid and blue collar workers?
  2. Would an amendment to an existing policy suffice?
  3. Does the policy apply to federal government employees who work in Ontario?
  4. What about employers who employ staff who are exempt from overtime requirements, like public accountants?