With many Canadians working from home during the pandemic, some are beginning to reflect on the differences in their lifestyle as compared to pre-pandemic. The ability to be remotely connected to your workplace has many advantages to employers and employees alike, such as shorter commute times and related cost savings (bus / vehicle expenses), increased efficiency and for some more flexibility regarding their working hours.
With flexibility surrounding working hours, some people working from home have noticed an increased inability to disconnect from work, whether it be of their own volition or because other co-workers and managers may be working more frequently in the evenings or outside of normal working hours. This can result in longer working days and higher stress, which may disproportionately affect women who spend approximately 33% more time than men on unpaid work in the home, which is normally performed after the work day is done. The health risks for employees when a constant connection to the workplace is not balanced against the need for rest include anxiety, depression and burnout.
The Canadian Government has noticed the lines have been blurred between being “at work” and “not at work”. Consequently, it has established the Right to Disconnect Advisory Committee, which began in October 2020 to hold a series of meetings with stakeholders, including the Canadian public, in order to obtain further information surrounding the right to disconnect and consider the logistics of such legislation. In Canada, workers do not currently have a legal right to disconnect; however, four other countries have followed France’s lead and have adopted legislation addressing the potential negative impacts of mobile technologies on employees’ work-life balance. The ‘right to disconnect’ gives employees a right to disengage from all work-related activities outside of mandated office hours. It is expected that this issue will come to the forefront in many countries in light of the large amount of remote working which has begun as a result of the pandemic, and which may well continue as businesses begin to emerge from the pandemic with varying plans for having employees return to the workplace.
While any legislation proposed by the Federal Government would only apply to federally regulated workers, which comprises only about 6% of the Canadian workforce, it would likely put pressure on the provincial governments to follow suit. Further, as remote working is likely to continue to be present in the workforce going forward, unions of both federally and provincially regulated employers will be keen to include in their collective agreements the right to disconnect from the workplace.
Consequently, work life post-pandemic undoubtedly will look different than it did prior to the pandemic and as such it is important for employers to be aware of the potential issues caused by an employee’s inability, or in some cases unwillingness to disconnect from work. To prevent burnout or other mental health related leaves employers should consider creating a policy regarding when employees can be expected to respond to an employment related request, and more importantly when they are not expected to respond.
The Government of Canada: The “Right to Disconnect”
1. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/portfolio/labour/ programs/labour-standards/consultation-right-to-disconnect-and-gig-work/backgrounder- right-to-disconnect.html
This article represents general information and is not legal advice. Please contact us if you would like legal advice that is tailored to your particular circumstances. We would be happy to help.