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.

Just Posted

File photo
Paramedic training returning to Castlegar

Emergency Medical Responder and Primary Care Paramedic training to take place in Castlegar

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

South Okanagan MP Richard Cannings wants to see dental coverage for all Canadians. (courtesy of Pixabay)
OPINION: South Okanagan MP fights for universal dental care

One in three Canadians have no dental coverage, with COVID making it even worse

COVID-19 cases are once again dropping across the West Kootenay. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Ten new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

Numbers are steadily dropping across the West Kootenay

Dep. Fire Chiefs Rich Piché (left) and Stephane Dionne said they were disappointed that only one person showed up at the George Evans fire hall’s recruitment drive Tuesday evening, May. 11. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks Fire/Rescue says rural fire hall at risk of closing

Home insurance could spike across North Fork if George Evans fire hall loses fire protection status

Conservation Service Officer Kyle Bueckert holds a gold eagle that was revived from acute rodent poisoning Monday, May 12. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks residents, Conservation Service Officer save poisoned eagle

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

The Libby Dam on the Kootenai River in Montana. The dam created the Koocanusa Reservoir, which straddles the B.C./Montana border. (photo courtesy Wikipedia)
Outflow at Libby Dam to be increased

Volume increase to aid migration and spawning conditions for endangered white sturgeon in the Kootenai River

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Most Read