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

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

Grizzly bear. (File)
Malakwa man bitten by grizzly bear on dog walk

The man and dogs were not seriously injured

The downtown kiosks were recently painted black. Tourism Revelstoke said decals still need to be added and information inside the kiosks will also be updated. The city said the black paint is temporary as the area is slotted to be completely revamped in the coming years. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
Newly painted black Revelstoke kiosks temporary fix; city

The recent colour changed caused an uproar on Facebook

A hummingbird gives its wings a rare rest while feeding in a North Okanagan garden. (Karen Siemens/North Okanagan Naturalists Club)
Hummingbirds back for another Okanagan season

North America’s littlest birds return, and they’re hungry

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

(Kingfisher Boats photo)
In the market for a boat in the North Okanagan? Be prepared to wait

Vernon’s Kingfisher Boats is out of 2021 models, with many 2022 models already pre-sold

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

Most Read