The government of Ontario has passed new work-life balance rules it says will help employees disconnect from the office when they are off work at home.
On Tuesday November 30th, the government said it passed the “Working for Workers Act.” The act requires Ontario businesses with 25 people or more to have a written policy about employees’ rights when it comes to disconnecting from their job at the end of the day.
These workplace policies could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working, the government says.
According to the law called, Bill 27, Working for Workers Act, 2021 enacted by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the New Part VII.0.1 of the Act also defines the term “disconnecting from work.” It is defined to mean, “not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages; so as to be free from the performance of work.”
Ontario cannot be a province where people burnout from endless work and family time comes last. We need to give our workers a break.Monte McNaughton
Rebalancing Workplace Work-life Balance Power Scale
Employers are also required to ensure they have in place a written policy for all employees with respect to disconnecting from work.
“We are determined to rebalance the scales and put workers in the driver’s seat of Ontario’s economic growth; while attracting the best workers to our great province,” Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said in a statement Tuesday.
Ontario is joining other global communities that has passed work-life balance rules. They all support employees to disconnect from work once the official work hour is over.
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There are some other provisions in the act which are aimed at improving the province employment landscape. There is a ban on the use of non-compete clauses; this prevents people from exploring other work opportunities and higher salaries at other jobs. The act also removes “unfair” work experience requirements for foreign-trained immigrants trying to work in their professions.
When you’re off the clock. You’re off the clock. Everyone should be able to unplug at the end of their work day. People are more than their jobs. They are mums and dads, volunteers for local charities, members of faith communities; and so much more.Monte McNaughton
McNaughton says the new laws will not only protect workers’ rights, but also help attract top talent and investments to the province.
“This legislation is another step towards building back a better province and cementing Ontario’s position as a global leader, for others to follow; as the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family,” McNaughton said.
A government spokesperson told CTV News Toronto that while the act has not yet received royal assent, it is expected to later this week.
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Expert says new law could ‘cause havoc’
Employment lawyer Howard Levitt told CTV News Toronto the province’s proposed legislation “doesn’t really solve the problem.” Instead, he suggested the government “might be virtue signalling.”
“It’s another example of legislation that accomplishes nothing,” Levitt said.
According to CTV News, Levitt pointed to his own office as an example. “In my law firm, I’ve actually disciplined employees for disconnecting,” Levitt said. In a recent example, he said an employee disconnected from work for the weekend while a client was enduring a major crisis.
“It depends on the nature of the business,” he said. “It would be devastating to my clients in particular if we just disconnected.”
Levitt said already existing legislation, such as overtime laws in Ontario, ensure employees who work after hours are compensated.
“What benefit is this legislation? It’s simply enunciating what the law already is.”