Quebec should enshrine the right to separation into law, says Young Lawyers Association
A coalition of young lawyers from the Capitale-Nationale and Chaudière-Appalaches regions is calling on the province to legislate to give Quebecers the right to take time off work when they’re not working.
The Jeune Barreau de Québec, a non-profit organization representing 1,600 members, conducted a survey of 968 young lawyers from across the province.
Seven in 10 respondents said they would support the government passing legislation regulating the right to separate, said Chloé Fauchon, a lawyer and president of the Jeune Barreau de Quebec.
“This is a topic of great importance that we are talking about more and more,” she said.
According to the same survey, 50 percent of respondents feel pressured to stay connected outside of regular work hours. 80 percent of them admit to checking their messages on their smartphones outside of normal working hours, and 60 percent say they don’t turn off their phones during the holidays.
“There has been so much email to manage since the pandemic. There is also text messaging and chatting on collaborative platforms like Teams. As notifications pile up, it’s getting harder and harder to disconnect,” Fauchon said.
Laws on the right to separate exist in other Canadian provinces such as Ontario and in certain European countries including France and Belgium.
To comply with his request, the Jeune Barreau de Québec has joined forces with the Jeune Chambre de Commerce Montreal which published an open letter in June 2022 to encourage organizations to set up a shutdown policy while urging the Quebec government to look into the issue.
The Jeune Barreau de Québec is calling for a law requiring all employers to consult with their employees and managers to establish a severance policy. Three quarters of the survey participants believe that employers who do not respect their employees’ right to separate should be sanctioned.
“We want normal working hours to be defined,” Fauchon added. “Proceeding with 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 Labor and Economy Committee at the Rencontres Actions Jeunesse organized by Enforce Jeunesse. They want her to take the file to the office of Labor Minister Jean Boulet, hoping to arrange a meeting with him.
No urgency for the minister
Labor Minister Jean Boulet said in a press release that working from home can blur the line between work and personal life, which can lead to issues related to disconnection outside of work hours.
He said the Respect for Labor Standards Act already defines hours of work, hours of work, time off and remuneration. In 2021, his ministry identified more than 15,000 collective agreements and did not list a switch-off clause.
“At this stage, it is not appropriate to legislate to force the adoption of a right-to-separation directive,” Boulet said.
However, Boulet recommends that companies and their employees sit down to discuss the separation and adopt sound people management practices.