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Friday, December 02, 2022

Pandemic puts ‘right to disconnect’ headlines as provinces move to policies

TORONTO – During Danish Yusuf’s morning routine, his work phone rarely rings and he rarely meets with employees of his Toronto insurance company.

The lack of disruptions is no coincidence. Joseph instructed employees not to plan meetings or send electronic communications in the morning or after 5 pm to help employees relax and enjoy their personal lives.

“I have a three-and-a-half year old daughter and people won’t schedule meetings with me between 8 and 9 a.m. because that’s when I’m giving her breakfast, changing her and dropping her off at daycare,” said Zensurance’s chief executive. said.

“My team knows this and people appreciate it.”

His policy has been given new importance and considered by more companies and governments as the lines between work and personal life have become even more blurred during the pandemic.

Canadians working from home during the crisis have found balancing the needs of their boss with family duties, such as taking care of children at home because of the school outbreak.

It can be hard to step away from phones or computers when many people are no longer commuting and the attraction to go out has waned as COVID-19 cases spike again.

Canadian workers increased the average time they log on to computers from nine to 11 hours during the pandemic, cybersecurity company Nordlayer found in February.

Recently, a November report from human resources software company Ceridian found that 84 percent of 1,304 Canadian workers surveyed by Hanover Research had felt the burn in the past two years.

Some are worried about changing these statistics.

Inspired by a 2016 law in France that gave workers the right to turn off electronic work devices outside of business hours, Canada’s federal government began to review labor standards and consider whether workers should be allowed to turn off their work in 2018 I should be given the right to ignore work related messages at home.

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A committee convened in October was expected to analyze the issue and provide recommendations to then-Labour Minister Philomena Tasi in the spring.

Michelle Johnson, communications director for new Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan, did not confirm whether the recommendations were ever received, but said in an email, “work on this file is ongoing.”

However, Quebec and Ontario are not waiting for federal regulations.

Ontario received royal assent to the new “right to disconnect” law on December 2. It mandates employers with at least 25 employees to develop policies on disconnecting from work over the next six months, but does not specify what scenarios businesses have to address.

“It’s going to be a piece of law that’s great to look at on the shelf, but doesn’t have a bunch of teeth in it,” predicts Sunira Choudhury, partner at Varkly Law in Toronto.

They feel that the law will be difficult to enforce and there will be waves of complaints from workers completing work long after their shifts are over to the labor ministry.

Although inspired by Ontario, Quebec is aiming to be tough.

The Quebec Solidaire Party introduced a bill in December demanding that companies “share the period during which an employee is entitled to be disconnected from all job-related communications” on a weekly basis. Non-compliant employers will be charged $100,000.

Chowdhury was never asked to formulate disconnect policies until Ontario and Quebec moved toward legislation.

She knows of businesses that previously implemented rules around electronic messaging, but was told that their policies were largely ignored by employees. He fears that the same will happen even if the law is enforced.

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Choudhary said, “A policy is only as strong as the employees who actually implement it.

“If employers attract them and then put them in drawers to never see again, there’s really a risk here.”

The upcoming law will change little for Zensurance, which is already clear about its policies and designated on-call employees for emergencies like cyberattacks or system outages.

However, the process can be more difficult for companies starting from scratch.

They should consider the circumstances under which after-hours messaging should be exempt from the ban, what to do about people who violate or violate policies, and how expectations will differ for different departments and industries.

For example, it may be easier for someone on the factory floor to leave work at work, but more difficult for health care workers, lawyers, and realtors, who are often on call or need to face later issues. are prone to which cannot be delayed.

But Anthony Kaul hopes that employers won’t let complexity stop them from setting expectations around their right to disconnect because workers value clarity.

The co-founder of Kitchener, Ont.-based Cloud DX, has long encouraged employees at his health technology company to leave work messages unanswered unless it can handle an emergency on-call staff.

The informal policy evolved “naturally” as Kaul is a “family man”, but it is also part of the company’s roots.

“We don’t really have a culture of people sitting with their phones next to their beds at 9 p.m., connected to the cloud or email.”

“We’re here to make health care better for everyone. That’s our mission and that includes our own people. We can’t field them.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 26, 2021.

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