Canadian HR Reporter Weekly

April 25, 2018

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April 25, 2018 Published weekly by Thomson Reuters Canada Ltd. CUSTOMER SERVICE Tel: (416) 609-3800 (Toronto) (800) 387-5164 (outside Toronto) Fax: (416) 298-5106 customersupport.legaltaxcanada@tr.com www.thomsonreuters.ca One Corporate Plaza 2075 Kennedy Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M1T 3V4 Director, Media Solutions, Canada: Karen Lorimer Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Todd Humber todd.humber@thomsonreuters.com (416) 298-5196 Editor/Supervisor: Sarah Dobson sarah.dobson@thomsonreuters.com (416) 649-7896 News Editor: Marcel Vander Wier marcel.vanderwier@thomsonreuters.com (416) 649-7837 Sales Manager: Paul Burton paul.burton@thomsonreuters.com (416) 649-9928 Circulation Co-ordinator: Keith Fulford keith.fulford@thomsonreuters.com (416) 649-9585 ©2018 Thomson Reuters Canada Ltd All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher (Thomson Reuters, Media Solutions, Canada). 'Right-to-disconnect' debate gains traction in Quebec Private member's bill pushes mandatory policy, punitive fines BY MARCEL VANDER WIER Discussion around the rights of workers to discon- nect from their responsibilities after-hours has found a foothold in Canada. Bill 1097, the Right-to-Disconnect Act, was in- troduced in March by Québec Solidaire member Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, amidst talk of reforms of the province's labour laws. If passed, the private member's bill would require Quebec employers to adopt an after-hours discon- nection policy ensuring employee rest periods are respected, or face punitive fines. Admitting it is "very rare" for a private mem- ber's bill to gain support in the national assembly, Nadeau-Dubois said he hopes the "right to discon- nect" discussion will impact broader labour stan- dards revisions. e issue of work-related communications needs to be addressed immediately, not 15 years from now, he said. "Our labour laws were written in an era where iPhones, emails and text messages did not exist," said Nadeau-Dubois. "For the generation of my par- ents, when you were leaving the office, you were actually leaving work and your work was stopped. at's not true anymore and everyone knows it." e right to disconnect is both a public health and workers' rights issue, he said. "It's a political issue and governments have a role to put in place basic work labour laws, basic worker protection," said Nadeau-Dubois. "Studies have found that this permanent link with work is a huge factor of stress and anxiety and, at the end of the day, that's an issue for productivity as well." Is legislation appropriate response? But adoption of hardline policy on this matter is not "conducive to the modern realities of doing busi- ness," said Jeremy Little, a labour lawyer at Mon- treal's OLS-Avocats, adding there's a give-and-take to the relationship. "People sometimes have to answer emails after work hours, on the one hand, and people will go and look at Facebook during work hours on the other hand." "Good faith" is an underlying tenant of the employee-employer relationship, and within that, work communications should strike a fair balance, he said. While the right to disconnect is currently a hot- button topic globally, legislation may not be the ap- propriate response, said Little. "is bill has not happened in a vacuum," he said. "ere is a societal issue here. Most people… feel as if they are — I won't say chained to the office — but they do feel as if the work hour does not end simply because hours have expired." "People can be accessed at any time and it's both a blessing in many respects, and also some people feel like it's a curse," he said. "(Bill 1097) has cer- tainly touched on an important issue, but… there are some distinctions that would have to be made." Passing a large, sweeping law is not going to fix the problem, said Little. "It's just going to create more problems, more confusion, more headaches and more disputes." In lieu of legislation or a workplace policy, em- ployers would be wise to assess and evaluate situa- tions individually, on a case-by-case basis, because the issue is complicated, he said. "Trying to come up with absolutes doesn't adapt itself very well for the dynamic and individualized situations of employment." Wouldn't block all communications But the proposed bill wouldn't block all commu- nications outside of working hours, said Nadeau- Dubois, noting such legislation is simply "too re- strictive" for employers. "What my bill is actually saying is that employ- ers must establish an after-hours disconnection policy, and that policy should apply to all of their employees," he said. "But then employers have the freedom to consult their employees and to put in place a policy that is convenient for their type of business or schedule." "We cannot do one disconnection policy for all Quebec," said Nadeau-Dubois. "We have to say there is a responsibility of the employers to consult their employees to write such policy. But that policy has to be done in each workplace to make sure that it's up to date to their reality." Last year, France enacted right-to-disconnect legislation, forcing employers with more than 50 staff to negotiate email guidelines with employees. And Quebec would become the first Canadian province to follow suit if Bill 1097 is supported. e move would benefit employees and the economy alike, said Nadeau-Dubois. "It makes people a lot more joyful when they come back to work after having a real vacation — not a vacation in which you went through five texts and 10 emails a day, but a real vacation. When you come back, you're actually motivated, rested and, at the end of the day, more productive."

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