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Government proposes new policy for federally regulated employees to disconnect from work

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In their 2024 budget, the federal government wants to amend the Canada Labour Code, so employers in federally regulated sectors will eliminate work-related communication with employees outside of scheduled hours. If implemented, this would affect roughly 500,000 employees across the country.

Always being connected, available and in constant work-mode, is something Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland hopes to avoid in the future.

That’s not healthy, and it is not a good way to live, said Freeland.

"In other parts of the world, they have legislation that prevents employers from calling employees after work at night," said Halifax resident Steve Beeler, who works for the federal government. "Work-life balance is very important to the government, and it should be important to all employers."

Registered psychotherapist Nigel Bone agreed and said there are clear benefits when work-life balance is improved.

"I think, individually speaking, burnout will be reduced and that piece of not having to look at the phone, and feeling guilt or shame or falling behind," said Bone.

California is also considering new legislation that would grant most of the sate’s employees the right to disconnect from their employers during non-work hours. This proposed bill would be the first of its kind in the United States and similar to laws that exist in France, Spain and Belgium.

Human resources specialist Gerald Walsh suggested this proposed new policy, while well intentioned, might prove to be unrealistic.

"Especially when, for example, you may have a workforce spread across four time zones," said Walsh. "How do you hold a meeting when you have this policy in place?"

This new program would cost close to $4 million over five years.

"Thankfully it’s only about $4 million and not much more, and the only thing I could really think of would be the development cost of the policy in the law," said Walsh. "Which requires legal advice and then the promotion of it through the channels."

Walsh also said, proposing the right to have employees disconnect from work outside of scheduled work hours will call into question what constitutes scheduled work hours, which have changed considerably in many work sectors.

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