Quebec should legislate right to disconnect, young lawyers association says
An association of young lawyers from the Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Appalaches regions is asking the province to legislate so that Quebecers can have the right to disconnect from work when they're not on the clock.
The Jeune Barreau de Québec, a non-profit that represents 1,600 members, conducted a survey among 968 young lawyers from across the province.
Seven out of 10 respondents said they would be in favour of the government passing a law to regulate the right to disconnect, said Chloé Fauchon, lawyer and president of the Jeune Barreau de Québec.
"This is an issue of great concern and that we're talking about more and more," she said.
According to the same survey, 50 per cent of respondents say they feel pressured to stay connected outside of regular working hours. Eighty per cent of them admit to checking their messages on their smartphones outside normal working hours and 60 per cent say they don't turn off their phone during the holidays.
"Since the pandemic, there are so many emails to manage. There are also text messages and chats on collaborative platforms like Teams. With accumulating notifications, it is increasingly difficult to disconnect," Fauchon said.
Right-to-disconnect laws exist in other Canadian provinces such as Ontario and in certain European countries, including France and Belgium.
To add to its request, the Jeune Barreau de Québec has joined forces with the Jeune Chambre de commerce Montréal which, in June 2022, published an open letter to encourage organizations to set up a disconnection policy, while calling on the Quebec government to consider the issue.
The Jeune Barreau de Québec is asking for a law to require all employers to consult with its employees and managers to establish a disconnection policy. Three-quarters of survey respondents believe that employers who don't respect their employees' right to disconnect should be sanctioned.
"We want normal working hours to be defined," Fauchon added. "Proceeding by having a policy within each organization allows, in our opinion, to respect the specific reality of each sector and to have flexibility."
The group of young lawyers met with Sylvie d'Amours, MNA for Mirabel and chair of the Committee on Labour and the Economy as part of the Rencontres actions jeunesse organized by Force jeunesse. They want her to take the file to the office of Labour Minister Jean Boulet in the hope of securing a meeting with him.
No urgency for the minister
Labour Minister Jean Boulet said in a news release that working from home can blur the line between work and private life, which can lead to issues related to disconnecting outside work hours.
He said the Act respecting labour standards already defines working hours, working time, time off and compensation. In 2021, his ministry identified more than 15,000 collective agreements and no disconnection clause was listed.
"At this stage, it is not appropriate to legislate to force the adoption of a policy on the right to disconnect," Boulet said.
Boulet recommends, however, that companies and their employees sit down to discuss disconnection and apply sound human resources management practices.