It is very common to be sending and receiving emails after working hours. Whether it’s because it’s urgent or that we want to be efficient or because we just have to. The end result is that it becomes a continuous workflow. The line between personal time and work time has been blurred, impacting mental health and leading to burnout cases.
In 2021, nearly one-third (32%) of Canadian workers said they were likely to report burnout, and nearly half of businesses (47%) see burnout as a significant challenge, according to a survey by Sage Canada. This is the most common concern of employers when it comes to their employees. This proportion is even higher in the health sector, the public sector and non-profit organizations (60%), as well as among businesses where the vast majority of employees work from home (55%).
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many workers have experienced the flexibility of working from home, but they also found it more difficult to disconnect when the office is at home. The pandemic has blurred the boundaries between personal life and work which was already affected by the overwhelming presence of technology in our lives. The feeling of constantly being at work is now present more than ever. However, the law is not equipped to cope with this reality.
It is time to pass a law in Quebec that gives a chance for employees to disconnect without feeling guilty about it.
A bill has been presented to the National Assembly of Quebec (Bill No 492, Act regarding the right to disconnect) aiming to ensure rest periods for employees by introducing an obligation for employers to adopt a right to disconnect outside working hours policy. The bill provides that every employer must establish such policy that would be applicable to all employees. It specifies that this policy must, among other aspects, determine the periods during which an employee is entitled to be disconnected from any communication relating to their employment on a weekly basis and provide for a protocol for the use of communication tools outside working hours. For employers with 100 employees or more, the bill provides that such policy is developed by a committee, half of whose members represent employees. For those with fewer than 100 employees, the bill provides that such policy is developed by the employer and then approved by the CNESST. To ensure compliance, the bill also contains penal provisions.
An amendment to the Labour Standards Act is therefore required so that employers respect the employees’ right of not responding to a text message, an email or a call outside working hours.
On December 2, 2021, Ontario passed a law on the right to disconnect requiring employers with more than 25 employees to have a right to disconnect policy. It should be noted that this law does not give an employee an automatic right to disconnect.
Countries like France have already legislated on the right to disconnect. Since 2017, French companies have been obliged to protect workers’ right to disconnect from work.
The federal government is also reviewing clauses of the Canada Labour Code. It believes that the working style as it is right now, might be compromising work-life balance. Moreover, if an employee answers work related correspondences after working hours, that time is currently not counted as a working hour. The government has set a committee having meetings on the subject since October 2020.
The question remains to know whether this obligation will create inequalities among employees because the type of work is not the same for everyone nor are the working hours.
A cultural change is needed in our workplaces. Employers need to consider whether texting at 11 p.m., or emailing on a Sunday morning is really necessary. While reality may be different from one workplace to another, one thing remains the same everywhere and that is the need for workers to pull the plug after their workday.
 Sage Canada and Angus Reid surveyed 775 business leaders and 1569 Canadian workers in this online survey, conducted on March 22-26, 2021. The margins of error for these two representative samples are 3.5% and 2.5% respectively, 19 times out of 20.
 Droit à la déconnexion – « Les travailleurs ont le droit de tirer la plogue! » Alexandre Leduc, June 3, 2020, 10 h 47, Published byr: Aile parlementaire de Québec solidaire
 Note explicative du Projet de loi 492, présenté à l’Assemblée nationale du Québec, 1ère session, 42e législature, Éditeur officiel du Québec 2020, p. 2
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