The Right To Disconnect From Work In Canada

The Right To Disconnect From Work In Canada

Fed up with after hours e-intrusions from the job?

Fed up with after hours e-intrusions from the job? No specific law protects you. Yet.

Nasty beeps and buzzes from work after hours. They’re today’s unpaid overtime. Barging into your private world. Next asshole who texts you from work at 9:52 p.m. – expecting an answer – must be slain (metaphorically). 

Value your Netflix-and-chill moments? But shook that dodging dings from the office makes you disloyal? Bad news: Nowadays the right to disconnect’s a grey zone. 

Unplugging From Work Is Not Covered By Canadian Law
There are no domestic statutes about disconnecting. Whatever legal protections might exist are a hodgepodge.  

In the private sector, provincial labour standards govern. They regulate overtime work, rest periods and vacation allowances. Nothing there about gluing a phone to your face after hours.

Some companies state their expectations on this in their employee handbooks. However, it's mostly up to your boss, or the prevailing corporate culture. More unionized shops are covering disconnecting in collective agreements. 

Does This Qualify As Overtime?
Say you’re tanning on a getaway from work in the Riviera. Semi-naked and glistening with oil as you are, the boss Facetime's you. Does their 60-minute intrusion, and the hours you spend afterward doing what they asked (instead of bronzing your buns), count as overtime?

You’d think it depends if you’re paid hourly or via annual salary. Nopee-do. Almost everyone’s eligible for time and a half beyond regular hours. Even managers and executroids. Here’s the catch: unless you assert that right, it fades like bronzed skin in winter.

Can You Just Say No?
It’s Sunday morning, and your tablet vibrates. Bossy’s had a brainstorm. They absolutely must get your input NOW. You ditch the device anyway and pursue personal doings.

Monday morning they blast you for having been unavailable. Should you worry? Yes, if you’ve agreed beforehand to be contactable off the job. Yes as well if no such pact was made but your coworkers' cave.

Legally you can’t be forced to be on call unless that’s part of your employment contract. Pretty clear cut. You can unplug your devices. However, in competitive workplaces, doing so sends strong signals regardless.

Proposed Legislation
Canada lags in disconnect laws vs. some other jurisdictions. France, in particular, is owed a tip of the beret. Their 2017 statute allows workers to ignore after-hours email, smartphones and other e-leashes.

Québec might follow suit. They’re reviewing a bill that’d quash post-workday contact that comes with fines for non-compliance. New York’s got a foot on the bandwagon as well.

Our feds may be next. Talk is they’ll add disconnecting to the Labour Code in fall 2019. It’d only apply to federally-regulated industries (e.g. transport, banking and telecommunications), about 6% of the country’s workforce.

With luck that’ll prompt provincial governments to budge also. Till then you’re best off haggling availability you can live with, or finding an employer ok with a digital detox.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not legal advice. Consult with an employment law specialist for personalized recommendations.