Backgrounder: The “Right to Disconnect”

In today’s world of work the lines have been blurred between being “at work” and “not at work”. This is due to the following factors:

This constant connection can be beneficial. However, it also carries health risks for employees when it is not balanced against the need for rest. Risks include:

The issue of the “right to disconnect” emerged in France. A law was passed in response to concerns that mobile technologies had negative impacts on work-life balance. Four other countries have since adopted right-to-disconnect legislation. A number of others are studying the issue. In Canada, workers do not currently have a right to disconnect.

Our understanding of the negative effects of being constantly connected continues to evolve. For example, a state of cognitive and emotional overload known as “hyper-connectivity”. That’s why the Minister of Labour, Filomena Tassi, has a mandate to co-develop a policy on the right to disconnect with:

If an employee decides to respond to work-related communications after work, this time is often not considered working hours. This can be found under the Canada Labour Code. This can negatively affect work-life balance. It can also disadvantage workers who are unable to remain connected after work due to:

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more Canadians to work from home. Recent surveys have shown that workers have been adapting to this new way of working. However, many workers have reported increased issues with “switching off” at the end of the workday. Expectations about being able to disconnect at the end of the day are more important than ever. This is due to the fact more and more Canadians are making their home their workplace.

This issue may disproportionately affect women. They spend approximately 33%Footnote 1 more time than men on unpaid work such as:

Women are also less likely to be available after working hours. Those who would benefit most from a “right to disconnect” are likely to be:

The Government of Canada is now conducting consultations to help inform potential policy solutions that would give federally regulated workers:

To do that, the Government established the Right to Disconnect Advisory Committee. They are currently holding a series of meetings, which began in October 2020. Their work will be complemented by engagement activities with the Canadian public.

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