Labour Minister Filomena Tassi responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday December 3, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Labour Minister Filomena Tassi responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday December 3, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Labour minister says pandemic highlights need to settle on right-to-disconnect rules

As it stands, when an employee decides to respond to work emails at night or weekends, the Canada Labour Code generally considers that time to not be working hours

The federal labour minister says the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to give workers the ability to avoid work emails and text messages as the lines between home and work lives blur.

The idea, known as the right to disconnect, first came up as a proposed addition to the federal labour code almost three years ago.

Governments in Canada and overseas have taken a closer look at the right-to-disconnect concept after France adopted a law in 2016 giving workers the right to turn off their electronic work devices outside of business hours over worries that employees were doing unpaid overtime, or being driven to burnout.

But that was before the pandemic that saw the ranks of people working from home swell to five million as of last month, with 2.9 million of them doing so temporarily because of COVID-19.

Labour Minister Filomena Tassi points to the pandemic as a reason why the right to disconnect has become a bigger government priority.

In an interview, Tassi says more remote work, alongside the changing nature of work has created new complications that require more consultations before making a final decision.

A special committee that first met in October is expected to provide Tassi with recommendations sometime this spring.

“I see this as a potential storm that is brewing in labour and so these converging trends are happening now, and they’re becoming more rapid, more pronounced,” Tassi said.

“For us, it’s ensuring that we are understanding what’s happening.”

As it stands, when an employee decides to respond to work emails at night or weekends, the Canada Labour Code generally considers that time to not be working hours.

The government says about one-fifth of federally regulated, private-sector workplaces like banks had a policy that limited the use of smartphones for work purposes outside of regular business hours as of 2015.

Regular business hours is key because the information provided to Tassi in the form of notes for question period suggests those with nine-to-five jobs who don’t work off-hours are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of any right to disconnect framework.

Tassi says experience in other jurisdictions that have implemented the rules have shown that some people want to get a reprieve from work emails and messages for their mental health.

Others cite mental health concerns as the reason why they want to be able to keep connected, Tassi says, worried that they could awake to a packed email inbox, text messages and voicemails.

There is also a concern about how implementing a right to disconnect could affect parents, and usually mothers, who may feel penalized career-wise if they can’t be reached at all hours, Tassi says.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes shared this photo of the binders and binders of letters and paperwork she’s received on area roads in the past few years. (Submitted photo)
Cariboo MLAs call on province to fix region’s roads

Minister Rob Fleming said more resources were on the way to the region

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty advises Conservative leader Erin O’Toole on mental health and wellness. (House of Commons Photography)
Cariboo-Prince George MP calling for 1-year deadline to establish 3-digit suicide hotline

Todd Doherty’s motion calling for 9-8-8 as a national hotline passed unanimously in December

CGL’s graphic of the month showing planned activity for summer. (CGL update/Lakes District News)
Coastal GasLink reaches 692 km pipe delivery milestone

2 new COVID cases linked with pipeline accomodations

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read