Ontario disconnect from work legislation a start to improve work-life balance

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TORONTO–The introduction of legislation that would require companies to develop disconnect from work policies is a welcome start to improve work-life balance for Ontario workers.

“Technology has increasingly blurred work-life balance, a situation exacerbated during COVID-19 as people turned their home into their job site, with workers expected to be reachable and available 24/7,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “This legislation is a first step towards establishing clearer boundaries between personal and work time to improve both physical and mental health outcomes for working Ontarians, especially for non-union workers who do not have the protection of a collective agreement.”

If passed, Ontario would become the first jurisdiction in Canada to require disconnect from work policies from companies that employ more than 25 people. The government is asking companies to consider options including adjusting response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications after-hours. While the Act mandates policies it does not prohibit or set any limits on contact and questions remain around how employer-drafted policies would effectively limit off-hour communication and compensate workers who are expected to provide services after regular hours.

“This legislation will start the process of corporations defining where the line is drawn on access to employees but it will take time and continued effort to combat the unspoken expectations that many workers know to exist if they want to keep or advance their positions,” said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Naureen Rizvi.

“Corporate right to disconnect policies need to have real teeth and be applied equally as there is a danger that they could widen the gender gap, with women who have additional home and child care responsibilities opting into disconnect policies while their male counterparts volunteer to fill the void and advance.”

The new Working for Workers Act, 2021 legislation also includes a ban on non-compete agreements that limit workers future employment opportunities, keeping them tied to their employer. The legislation also includes previously announced measures on international training requirements, licensing of temporary help agencies, and access to washroom facilities for workers.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype, Zoom or Facetime interview please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at @email or 416-896-3303 (cell).

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Kathleen O'Keefe

National Communications Representative - ATLANTIC REGION
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