Nearly all employers with 25 or more employees in Ontario must comply with Ontario's new legislative requirement to have a Right to Disconnect policy in place by June 2, 2022. To help employers comply, Gowling WLG is selling a policy template that meets the minimum statutory requirements as is, and a related checklist to help employers determine their organization’s unique needs. This package is available on PartnerVine for Can$1,000.
- Purchasers of the product on PartnerVine can download the policy template and checklist immediately upon purchase. The policy downloads as an editable Word document and the checklist downloads as a pdf.
- Purchasers of the policy and checklist will also receive a Can$500 credit toward legal fees for a Gowling WLG employment lawyer who can assist in tailoring the policy further for your organization and/or address any related inquiries, subject to a standard client conflicts check.
What is Ontario's Right to Disconnect Law?
On November 30th, 2021, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario adopted Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act, 2021 ("Bill 27"). Bill 27 received royal assent on December 2nd, 2021. Among other things, Bill 27 amends Ontario's Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) to require employers with 25 or more employers to have a written policy with respect to disconnecting from work.
The ESA states that specific information for the written policy may be prescribed, but, apart from requiring a written policy, the legislation does not currently mandate any specific information that must be included in the policy. The ESA simply defines disconnecting from work as not engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls, or sending or reviewing other messages, to be free from performing work.
Unless and until the specific requirements and exemptions are adopted, no guidelines govern the written policy’s contents, leaving the onus on employers to determine the contents of their Right to Disconnect policy.
Who must have a written policy?
Except for federally regulated organizations or organizations controlled by the Crown, all employers in Ontario who employ 25 or more employees must have a written policy. The number of employees is counted on January 1st of any year.
When must the written policy be adopted?
Apart from 2022, the written policy must be adopted by March 1 of the year the employer employs 25 or more employees. In 2022, the first year of implementation, employers have until June 2, 2022, to adopt their written policy.
How can Gowling WLG's Policy and Checklist help?
In the absence of clear guidelines for the written policy, Gowling WLG's template policy and detailed checklist helps employers responsibly meet their requirements under the law. It can also assist employers in understanding what other organizations are doing to help stay competitive.
Downloaded as a pdf, the checklist helps employers:
- determine whether they must develop a written policy covering the Right to Disconnect,
- meet the minimum statutory requirements in developing the content of a written policy, and
- ask the right questions to tailor the policy to their organization.
The checklist provides structure for the decisions that must be made for a written policy. Developed by Gowling WLG's top employment lawyers, the checklist incorporates their experience in Ontario and other jurisdictions that have implemented similar legislation mandating a right to disconnect.
Downloaded as a Word document, the template Right to Disconnect policy covers the essential issues any organization needs to cover and includes a shortlist of highlighted items to consider that may be specific to an organization.
With the policy and checklist, an organization will have information and resources to craft a written policy on the right to disconnect that fits its workplace.
Where can additional legal advice be obtained?
After drafting a policy using the checklist and template, organizations may wish to have a lawyer review their draft policy and add more detail unique to its environment and circumstances. Organizations that purchased the policy template and checklist will have saved themselves time and money and be well prepared to meet with a lawyer or law firm of their choosing. If purchasers choose to engage Gowling WLG for this purpose, included with their purchase of the package is Can$500 credit toward legal service from Gowling WLG on employment issues related to Ontario's Right to Disconnect requirement and the review of the organization’s draft policy. Engaging Gowling WLG for this purpose is subject to the law firm’s usual client intake requirements, including ensuring that providing legal services to the organization would create no conflict of interest with another client.
Why has Ontario enacted Right to Disconnect legislation?
The Right to Disconnect arose from the work of the Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee ("OWRAC"). Established under the leadership of Monte MacNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, OWRAC was designed to help Ontario recover from COVID-19. OWRAC focused on changes in technology, the rise of remote work, and the significance of skills development in the global labour market to propose reforms to Ontario's labour and employment laws and advance Ontario's training and employment programs.
Following a consultation period, OWRAC's recommendations led to Bill 27, which covers not only the Right to Disconnect, but new restrictions on the use of non-competition agreements, a licensing requirement for temporary help agencies and recruiters, removal of barriers for internationally trained professionals, and provision of washrooms for delivery workers. Because Bill 27 includes a specific provision that the Legislative Assembly may require specific language on disconnecting from work, further regulations protecting employees’ private time may be on the horizon.
Gowling WLG's Employment Practice
Gowling WLG's Employment, Labour, and Equalities ("ELE") Practice in Canada comprises over 40 professionals across jurisdictions, many of whom are ranked most highly by national and international rating agencies, including Chambers Global and Best Lawyers in Canada. For more information on Gowling WLG's ELE Practice, visit Gowling WLG's website here. To purchase the Ontario Right to Disconnect Policy and Checklist, visit the product page here.