Proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 for requirement for policies on Disconnecting from Work.
Bill or Act:
Employment Standards Act, 2000
Summary of Proposal:
The ministry is proposing amendments to the ESA that, if passed, would require employers that employ 25 or more employees on January 1 of any year to have a written disconnecting from work policy in place by March 1.
The term "disconnecting from work" would 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. Regulatory authority would be provided to allow the LGIC to make regulations prescribing information that must be contained in the policy.
Employers would have to provide a copy of the written policy (or amended policy) to each employee within 30 days of preparing (or changing) the policy or within 30 days of a new employee becoming an employee of the employer. Employers would also have associated record keeping obligations.
The proliferation of workplace communications technology in recent years has blurred the boundaries between work and rest, and created a prevailing culture of 'hyper-connectivity' in which workers may find it increasingly difficult to disconnect fully from their work devices and be free from working. The rapid rise in the number of Canadians working at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened interest in this issue.
MLTSD is bringing forward this proposal as part of a package of legislative proposals that will help shape the "future of work" in Ontario. These proposals respond to several recommendations made by the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee (OWRAC), which was appointed in June 2021.
If the ESA amendments are passed, employers that are required to develop a policy would have six months from the day the proposed amendments receive Royal Assent to comply with this requirement.
Analysis of Regulatory Impact:
The proposed amendments would add a new requirement for employers with 25 or more employees. These employers would incur costs for the development of a written policy on disconnecting from work. This would be a one-time cost of coming into compliance with the proposed legislation. Once this cost is incurred, ongoing costs would be negligible, but employers do have the option to amend their policies in the future.
This proposal could benefit both individual employees and organizations. Disconnecting from work policies contribute to better work-life balance which reduces burn-out and overload, and which could also increase productivity during working hours. Over time, this could lead to higher staff retention rates and improved employee health and wellness.
The legislative proposal would not set specific prescriptive requirements. Employers would have the flexibility to develop a policy that is appropriate to their operational requirements.
October 29, 2021
Comments Due Date:
November 22, 2021
Employment, Labour, and Corporate Policy Branch
Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development
400 University Avenue, 15th Floor
Toronto ON M7A 1T7