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Mandatory Policy on Disconnecting from Work

A reminder that employers with 25 or more employees are required to have a written disconnecting from work policy in place as of June 2, 2022.

On December 2, 2021, the Ontario Government introduced new requirements for employers through the Working for Workers Act, 2021. These requirements were added to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). In the first year the requirement takes effect, employers have until June 2, 2022 to provide all employees with a written copy of their disconnecting from work policy. Starting in 2023, and in the years that follow, employers with 25 or more employees as of January 1of any year must have a written policy in place before March 1 of that year.

Employers with 25 or more employees as of January 1 of any given year are required to have and distribute a written policy about employees disconnecting from work, relating to engaging in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages. This list of work-related communications is not exhaustive, and may include other types of work-related communications. The employer determines the content of the policy itself. For example, the policy might address expectations about response times for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they are not working.

Employers must provide each employee with a written copy of the disconnecting from work policy, whether it be in the form of a printed copy, an attachment to an email that the employee may print out, or a link to a document online (if the employee has the ability to access the document and print it). The written policy must apply to all of the employer’s employees in Ontario, including management, executives and shareholders who are employees under the ESA. This does not, however, mean that the employer is required to have the same policy for all its employees: an employer can have a single policy applicable to all employees, or its disconnecting from work policy can contain different policies for different groups of employees.  The policy may be a standalone document, or form part of another document, such as a comprehensive workplace human resources policies and procedures manual.

A new employee must be provided a copy of the policy within 30 days of being hired. If an existing written policy is changed, the employer must provide all employees with a copy of the new policy within 30 days of the changes being made.

When creating a written policy on disconnecting from work, employers who are subject to the requirement should ensure the policy is about disconnecting from work as defined in the ESA, that the policy includes the date it was prepared as well as the date of any changes made to the policy, and that a copy of the policy is provided to all employees in the appropriate format.

If you have any questions about the new legislation and drafting your own policy about disconnecting from work, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.

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