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Canadian Business reported there’s growing chatter in North America about adopting right-to-disconnect laws to free workers from being tethered to their phones around the clock, but some labor experts say that while the digital demands of work in the 21st century need to be openly discussed, rigid regulations and fines may not be the solution.
Quebec Solidaire’s Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois also tabled a private member’s bill in the Quebec national assembly last week that aims to “ensure that employee rest periods are respected by requiring employers to adopt an after-hours disconnection policy.” The proposal calls for fines between $1,000 to $30,000 for companies that refuse to draft a proper policy or reassess it annually to ensure it remains up to date and effective.
“For my parents’ generation, when you were leaving the office, you were actually leaving the office,” Nadeau-Dubois, 27, said last week. “It’s not true for my generation anymore. When you leave work, you still have to work because you have emails from your boss or colleague. The separation between professional life and private life is disappearing.”
As part of its public consultation earlier this year on how “labor standards should be updated to better reflect and respond to the new reality” of evolving workplaces, Employment and Social Development Canada released an online survey that included several questions about right-to-disconnect policies. One of the questions asked whether right-to-disconnect regulations should be one of the government’s “most important”labor issues.
“It’s always a good thing for parties to discuss their working conditions together,” says labor and employment lawyer Katherine Poirier, but she cautions that “over-regulating and imposing fines for employers is not always the right way to solve a situation.”
“The problem is there is no cookie-cutter solution in this area,” says Poirier, a partner with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.