Should employees have the right to disconnect?

A headshot of Employment Lawyer Mackenzie Irwin at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP, to the left of the logos for radio station 900 CHML in Hamilton and Samfiru Tumarkin LLP.

Interview Summary

With more companies across the country transitioning to a hybrid workplace or work from home model, employees have had to adapt to possibly longer work hours and differing expectations. How can employees reinforce their rights with the distinction between work and the home disappearing?

Mackenzie Irwin, an employment lawyer and Associate at Samfiru Tumarkin LLP joins Global News Radio’s 900 CHML Scott Radley to discuss employees’ rights to disconnect and employer expectations.

Interview Notes

Do employees have a legal right to disconnect from work at home?

Currently, there are no employment laws in place that reinforce an employee’s right to disconnect or force an employer to allow employees to “unplug”.

Can employees be penalized for disconnecting from the workplace at home?

Employers will have to properly communicate their expectations of an employee that typically are outlined in an employment agreement. If there are no contractual terms of work hours, there is a need for employers and employees to establish what expectations are while working remotely. While there is no legal way to enforce the right to disconnect, employers can and should establish policies to protect their employee’s rights.

If an employee agrees initially to work longer hours, are the terms of their employment considered to have changed?

Employers can potentially make the argument that as an employee regularly works longer hours, the terms of their employment, such as their schedule, have changed. Employees should be wary of accepting work consistently that is not during their agreed-upon workday.

Learn More
Employee rights while working from home

Do many employees fear if they do not respond to their employer they will be penalized?

Many employees worry if they do not respond to emails and calls outside of work hours, they will seem uninterested or less invested in their jobs than other co-workers. Employees do not legally have a right to promotions or rewards for their work unless contractually stated.

If it is not written into an employment contract how many hours an employee must work, do they have any grounds to disconnect?

The Employment Standards Act stipulates how many hours a week an employee must work in order to qualify for overtime pay, however, there are no current limits to the number of hours an employee can work.

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