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

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

Kindergarten class out learning some basic safety and biking skills on Spirit North Day. (Rachelle van Zanten photo/Lakes District News)
Spirit North’s after school program for spring and summer begin

The Spirit North’s after-school program at Morris Williams Elementary school has been… Continue reading

Indigenous count crucial to determining services

Pandemic protection measures in place for Indigenous communities

Kenny Olson in the bakery department where he worked for the past two years. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Community bids adieu to Kenny Olson

Retirement beckons after 40 years with Overwaitea/Save-On Foods

Beth Berlin with Lisa Cant after administering vaccines at the one-day walk-in clinic in Burns Lake last week. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Lakes District News)
Burns Lake health area sees 50 per cent immunized population

Unknown when further clinics may be held

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

Most Read