What does the proposed ‘right to disconnect’ mean for the Canadian workforce?


Employees who work in federally regulated sectors may one day have the right to disconnect after regular work hours. 

On May 2, 2024, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 16, 2024, also known as Bill C-69, was tabled in the House of Commons. Bill C-69 includes legislative amendments designed to implement measures outlined in the 2024 Budget.

The budget introduces a commitment by the government to provide more than $4 million in funding to implement changes to the Canada Labour Code (the Code) that would require employers in federally regulated industries to establish a “right to disconnect policy” limiting work-related communications outside normal work hours.

History of the Right to Disconnect

The Budget 2024 proposal was seemingly the culmination of years’ worth of studies and consultations at the federal level. Beginning in 2017 with a Mandate Letter to the then Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, the Honourable Patty Hajdu was tasked with modernizing Code, which had remained relatively unchanged since the 1960s.

Following a comprehensive review of the federal labour standards in place, five issues were identified as requiring further consideration, including how rapidly changing work environments and technological advances have impacted communications in the workplace. Other issues identified during the review included:

  • Federal minimum wage;
  • Labour standards protections for non-standard workers;
  • Access and portability of benefits; and
  • Collective voice for non-unionized workers.

Consequently, an independent Expert Panel on Modern Federal Labour Standards was appointed in 2018 to consult with stakeholders, conduct research, and provide advice on these topics. Building on the Panel’s work, in 2019, the Minister of Labour was directed to co-develop new provisions that would give federally regulated employees the right to disconnect. This, in turn, resulted in the creation of a Right to Disconnect Advisory Committee, whose specific mandate was to recommend how to support workers’ right to disconnect.

Bill C-69 and the Canada Labour Code

The changes proposed by Bill C-69 are, to be sure, voluminous, with the text of the bill reaching nearly 700 pages in length. If passed, Bill C-69 would introduce a number of important amendments to the Code that will be of interest to employers and employees alike.

 The changes include the following key points relating to the right to disconnect:   

 1. Employers subject to the Code will now be required to establish a policy on disconnecting. The draft legislation stops short of providing employees with a stand-alone right to disconnect. Instead, the proposed changes provide a non-exhaustive list of elements that a policy must contain: 

  • a general rule regarding work-related communications occurring outside of scheduled hours, including an employer’s expectations and any opportunity for employees to disconnect;
  • any exceptions to the rule and their underlying rationale;
  • the effective date of the policy; and
  • any other component prescribed by regulation;

 2. The policy must be updated every three (3) years;

 3. The policy must be developed and updated in consultation with employees or a trade union, if one is present in the workplace;

4. Certain employees, such as those who exercise management functions, may be exempted from the policy; and

5. The employer must post and keep posted a copy of the policy in a readily accessible place in the workplace, in addition to providing every employee to whom it applies a copy.


The right to disconnect has engendered much debate over the years, with stakeholders and interested parties expressing widely divergent views on the topic. Despite differences in opinions, one thing is certain: the right to disconnect has gained increasing importance in the post-COVID era and is unlikely to go away any time soon.

The second reading of Bill C-69 has occurred and has now been referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for study. While the proposed amendments, in their current form, stop short of creating a statutory right to disconnect, they do place a requirement on employers to develop a policy. Though perhaps not as far-reaching as some might have hoped, employers and employees (and unions) would do well to take note of its progress over the coming months. If passed, employers should seek appropriate advice about these new obligations under the Code.