Published on May 25, 2022
The Rolodex. Fax machines. The watercooler.
Icons and increasingly relics of ‘the office’ that are no longer relevant in the modern workplace. Mobile technologies, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops have dissolved the physical and metaphoric walls of the office, allowing us to connect and communicate from anywhere at any time.
However, these technologies that allow us to be connected around the clock every day of the week have blurred the boundary between personal and work time. More than that, it has seen employees more frequently responding to emails or answering calls on weekends, evenings, and even while on vacation. In 2021, a Canadian study found that the average worker processed a quarter of their emails from home outside of business hours. Ease of access to work emails and a culture of ‘hyperconnectedness,’ with an expectation of immediate responses to all inquiries, is at least partially responsible for these habits.
The COVID 19 pandemic only accelerated this shift, as employees converted bedrooms into makeshift offices and turned kitchen tables into boardrooms to continue working, all without the defined structure and schedule of travelling to the office for business hours.
At Sport Law we have seen first-hand the consequences of sport leaders and staff feeling the pressure to be constantly available without being able to disconnect fully from work. The inability to disconnect and recharge can very quickly lead to additional stress, reduction in productivity, burnout, and turnover.
Right to Disconnect Legislation
To help foster a better work-life balance for employees, the Ontario government recently passed Bill 27: Working for Workers Act, 2021 (the “Act”) which came into force on December 2, 2021.
A central element of this legislation gives employees in Ontario the right to disconnect from work. The Act requires that eligible employers create policies around employees’ rights, specifically protecting the rights of employees to not engage in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages, so as to be free from the performance of work” outside of working hours.
The Act does not provide many specifics about the content of this policy, other than requiring that the employer provide a copy of this policy to every employee within thirty (30) days of creating the policy, as well as to any new hires.
Failing to create a policy is a violation of the Employment Standards Act and could result in a hefty fine.
Do I need a Right to Disconnect Policy?
Before rushing to write and implement a Right to Disconnect policy, the mandatory elements of the Act only apply to organizations that meet the established minimum requirements.
Only organizations with twenty-five or more employees residing in Ontario on January 1, 2022, need to have a Right to Disconnect policy. In determining your employee count, employers must include every individual employee, whether they work forty or four hours a week, located in Ontario who are on payroll at the beginning of the calendar year.
By way of example, if your organization is a summer sport and had ten employees on January 1st but hires twenty additional workers during the summer months to meet an increase in demand, there is no obligation to have a Right to Disconnect policy in place by June 2nd, 2022. Alternatively, if you did have twenty-five employees at the beginning of the calendar year with layoffs during the warmer months, your organization may be required to create a policy.
For national sport organizations with staff and operations across the country, it is important to note that only employees residing in Ontario must be counted under the Act. All organizations should verify their employment records to determine how many employees they had working in Ontario on January 1st, 2022.
Should I have a Right to Disconnect Policy?
Whether you have two employees or a hundred, we strongly recommend having a Right to Disconnect policy in place as a reflection of your values and commitment to supporting your employees’ health and wellness.
These policies should include items such as:
Beyond the specifics of any policy, leaders within an organization must reflect a commitment to encouraging a culture where employees feel as though they can disconnect without penalty. This includes respecting vacation time, both for their employees as well as for themselves.
Out of the office should mean that you are out of the office!
Areas of Consideration
When drafting and implementing a Right to Disconnect policy, we suggest that organizations consider different issues, including:
While remote work gives employees the flexibility to work anywhere and anytime, disconnecting from work is crucial for individuals to achieve a healthy and sustainable work-life balance. More than just simply complying with legislation, sports organizations must be willing to prioritize their employees by creating a culture that recognizes and values the division between work and personal time.
We urge organizations to prioritize your employees’ mental and physical health and create a culture where employees feel comfortable disconnecting from work upon completion of the workday. Work-life balance is more relevant and important than ever, and sport organizations need to be at the forefront of this movement.
If you have any questions about a Right to Disconnect policy, please contact Will Russell at email@example.com. If you are looking to implement cultural change, please contact Lauren Brett at firstname.lastname@example.org.