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

Bella Coola’s new WildSafeBC co-ordinator, Rae Kokeš, has spent the last 10 years in Africa working in lion, human, conflict, and is a wildlife biologist by trade. (Photo submitted)
From the savannas of Africa to the Bella Coola Valley

New Wildsafe BC coordinator ready to tackle wildlife conflict

Bella Coola Valley Ridge Riders Horse Club board member Annika Granander watches, and participates in the gymkhana Sunday (Photo submitted)
Sunshine and smiles all around Bella Coola Ridge Riders Horse Club gymkhana

The event was the first of the year, with COVID-19 safety precautions in place

A build up of lint in a clothes dryer is believed to have caused a house fire in Alexis Creek Sunday evening, April 4, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Clothing dryer suspected cause of Alexis Creek home fire, owner wants to warn others

Neil Miller is thankful he still has his horses, community support and his life

This will be the second year the Bella Coola Valley Rodeo won’t take place due to the pandemic. (Michael Wigle file photo)
Bella Coola Valley Rodeo cancelled for 2021

Club organizers say next year’s rodeo will be bigger and better than ever

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’

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

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

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

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Most Read