Government of Canada launches consultation on labour protections for “gig work” and on a “right to disconnect”

March 19, 2021 | Lisa Goodfellow, Jenifer C. Gentle

On March 18, 2021, the federal Minister of Labour, Filomena Tassi, invited Canadians to participate in an online consultation to share their views on:

  1. “gig work” – where workers enter into short-term contracts to complete specific and often one-off tasks, generally through digital platforms (examples include Uber, Lyft, Upwork, Freelancer, and so on); and
  2. a “right to disconnect” and its potential benefits for federally regulated workers, for example, improving work-life balance by setting clear expectations around the use of cellphones after the workday is done.

Due to the growing number of “gig workers” and the fact that they often do not have the protections given to employees under Canadian labour statutes, the Minister of Labour was given the mandate to develop greater labour protections for them.  To help with this, the government is engaging in consultations with stakeholders including virtual roundtable discussions with employers and unions, more targeted group meetings and this online consultation.

Given the constant connection to mobile devices and the increase in remote work (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic), the lines between being “at work” and “not at work” have blurred, giving rise to concerns about work-life balance.

France was the first country to implement legislation on the “right to disconnect” due to the negative impact that mobile technologies have had on work-life balance.  It came into force on January 1, 2017, and gave employees the right not to check or respond to email or other work-related communications when they are off work.

Currently, no provinces or territories in Canada have a “right to disconnect” law.  However, the Minister of Labour has been given the mandate to co-develop, with employers and labour groups, a policy that would give federally regulated workers the “right to disconnect.”  To this end, the Right to Disconnect Advisory Committee, made up of representatives from federally regulated employers, unions and other organizations, began holding a series of meetings in October 2020.  Stakeholder input is also being sought through this online consultation.

The online consultation is open to everyone and views can be shared until April 30, 2021.  Feedback from the consultation will be used to help inform how labour protections could potentially be adapted for gig workers and how a policy on the “right to disconnect” could support work-life balance and workers’ well-being in federally regulated workplaces.

For more information, see the Federal Government’s press release.  We will keep you informed as developments in this area arise.


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