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Right to disconnect after work

Digital devices give employers and employees greater opportunities to increase productivity and flexibility, but also have created a culture of continuous availability where it is easy to contact employees anytime, anywhere, including outside of working hours. The technology has made remote work possible, which has become commonplace due to the coronavirus and pandemic measures.

 

Remote work disrupts the boundaries between the professional and private spheres. While remote working has saved jobs and enabled many companies to survive the coronavirus crisis, it has also blurred the gap between personal and working time – many people work outside of normal working hours, which is detrimental to the work-life balance.

 

Continued availability can affect your health. Continuous work can have health implications as rest is essential to one’s well-being. Sitting too long in front of a screen and working too long affects concentration, causes cognitive and emotional overload, and can lead to headaches, eye strain, general fatigue, anxiety, burnout, or sleep deficiencies. In addition, static posture and repetitive movements can cause muscle tension and musculoskeletal disorders, especially in work environments that do not meet ergonomic standards.

 

Over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression and work-related mental disorders.

 

Federal Labor Minister Filomena Tassi believes that the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to enable workers to avoid work email and text messages as the boundaries between home and work are blurring.

 

The idea known as the right to disconnect appeared as a proposed addition to Canada’s federal labor code almost three years ago.

 

Governments in Canada and around the world are taking a closer look at the concept of the right to disconnect after France passed legislation in 2016 giving workers the right to turn off electronic work devices outside of working hours for fear of unpaid overtime and being burned out.

 

Labor Minister Tassi points to the pandemic as the reason why the right to disconnect has become a higher priority for the government. Currently, the number of people working from home in Canada is around 5 million, of which an allegedly 2.9 million do so only temporarily due to Covid-19.

 

A special committee that first met last October is expected to make recommendations on this topic to Minister Tassi later this spring.

 

Canadian Labor Code – The Canada Labor Code now states that when an employee chooses to reply to emails regarding night or weekend work, this time is not working hours.

 

According to the government, since 2015, about a fifth of federally regulated private sector jobs, such as banks, have policies that restrict the use of smartphones for business purposes outside of normal working hours.

 

Preliminary information provided to Minister Tassi shows that people with 9 to 5 jobs who do not officially work overtime may be the biggest beneficiaries of the new right to disconnect from work.

 

How is it in other jurisdictions?

 

In the European Union, Parliament is currently working on the basic right of workers to be disconnected from work and unavailable outside of work. 37% of workers in the EU started working from home during the lockdown. 27% of people working from home also work during their free time.

 

The EU-wide directive on maximum working hours and minimum rest periods states that a maximum of 48 hours per week is allowed to work, a worker is entitled to a minimum of 11 uninterrupted hours of rest per day and at least 4 weeks of paid leave per year.

 

There are many indications that Canada is working on similar legislation at the same time as the European Union. However, to what extent it will be close to the European one, we will probably find out later this spring.

 

You can learn more about the Canada Labor Code here:

https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/L-2/

 

You can find out more about the Working Conditions and Working Time Directive in the European Union here:

https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=706&langId=en&intPageId=205

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