Recent Changes to Ontario’s Employment Standards

Employees beware, you do NOT have a right to disconnect - and other recent cosmetic changes to employment standards

The Ontario government has been tinkering with employment standards recently, leading some news sources to portray the “right to disconnect” as a new reality for Ontario employees. However, despite the hype, most of these changes to employment standards are cosmetic – they look nice, but they don’t do much.

Here is what you need to know about the recent changes to the Employment Standards Act (“ESA), and how those could affect your work life.

1. You do NOT have a “right to disconnect” (unless your employer gives you one)

The ESA now defines “disconnecting from work” but it pretty much ends there.

All employers with 25 or more employees must now create a policy that relates to disconnecting from work. To date, businesses and employment lawyers have no further guidance on what the policy needs to say. Most employer policies, therefore, are equally short on details.

Until the Ministry of Labour fills in some of those details, the requirement is close to meaningless. As before, there is nothing stopping your Ontario employer from giving you the right to disconnect, but nothing requiring it either.

2. You will soon know if your employer digitally tracks your activities

Ever wonder if your Ontario employer knows that you took an extra long lunch, that you slept in 30 minutes, or that you watched cat videos on YouTube between 3:30 and 4:00 PM? You may get a look behind the curtain as of October 11, 2022, when all Ontario employers with 25 or more employees will be required to disclose whether, when, how, and why they are electronically monitoring employees. Although “electronic monitoring” is not defined, it would presumably refer to things such as keystroke tracking, internet browsing history, email monitoring, GPS data, and much more.

That said, there is no right to be free from digital monitoring, and no clear rules yet exist about your right to digital privacy. Similar to the disconnecting from work policy requirement, the new rules require words but not actions from your employer. Although you will know how your employer is electronically monitoring you, you won’t have a right to do anything about it.

3. Most non-compete agreements are (still) banned

As of October 25, 2021, most employees are prohibited from entering into non-compete agreements with employers, and such agreements that are entered into after that date are void (i.e., unenforceable). This is intended to protect Ontario employees who can lose their jobs but be prohibited from seeking work in the same field.

Again, this new change seems like a nice perk for employees, but the reality will not change significantly, as courts were generally very hesitant to enforce non-competition agreements in most circumstances even before this change.

If your employment is terminated for the above reasons (or any other reason that you consider unfair or unjust) you can read more about how we can help on the Termination and Severance section of our website.

If you are dealing with an employment issue such as wrongful dismissal, unfair severance, or workplace harassment, contact the employment lawyers at Share Lawyers. Our 35+ years of experience in long term disability (LTD) law and team of experienced employment lawyers can help you win your case against your employer. We offer free consultations and there are no fees unless you win your case. Join us on Facebook and become a Top Fan for a chance to win each month.

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