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Ontario government to introduce electronic monitoring bill


Ontario government to introduce electronic monitoring bill

Ontario could soon be the first province in the country to enact new legislation that would take aim at employer tracking employees while working from home.

Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, made the announcement in Kitchener on Thursday.

McNaughton said in this new era of COVID-19 and people working from home, employees have a right to know when they’re being tracked.

If passed, Ontario would become the first province in the country to require electronic monitoring policies and protect workers' privacy by requiring employers be transparent on how employees use of computers, cellphones, GPS systems and other electronic devices are being tracked.

"We all know the way in which we've been working is changing,” McNaughton said.

“Advances in technology have allowed our workers to reach new heights. Our labour laws must adapt to protect our workers and their families."

The proposal comes on the heels of legislation introduced in the fall to remove what it says are unfair barriers against foreign-trained individuals and creating a right to disconnect.

McNaughton said the proposal and more amendments will be introduced in the coming days.

The move is being hailed as a good first step by many in the business community, including the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.

"I think it really builds on what we've seen in the last few years where the use of technology has seen a really rapid transformation, but also adoption. So for the business community, it's really just solidifying something that's already happening," said CEO Rory Ring.

“Employees are being tracked, whether it's at home, at work or in the mines and many of those purposes are for safety.”

He said the chamber of commerce will be there to help those businesses who need a little more guidance on how to follow the proposed rules.

"It's something that I think is necessary to ensure that assets that you're employing, the remote workforce, are being used to best benefit not only the company but also the individuals. The whole work dynamic has changed."  

Laurentian University is one of Sudbury's largest employers, with 1,000 people. And, many of its employees are continuing to work from home under COVID-19 protocol.

Its chief information officer said this is a good step in the right direction.

"There is some value in tracking, for example cyber security,” said Luc Roy.

 I don't know if anyone in the audience would have a Google account, but it's nice when Google sends you a message saying 'hey did you log in from China?' Well that's probably one of the good reasons for tracking."  

He said the university has always been transparent with employees in having an electronic monitoring policy, and he's looking forward to seeing what new elements the bill might include.

"Contrary to what might be a popular belief, we are very transparent and we have policies in place, for example our ' Acceptable Use Policy,' or section 4 and it discloses how we disclose information," Roy said.

Labour lawyer Zachary Courtemanche works for Weaver-Simmons in Sudbury. He said there are a few things employers will have to keep in mind.

"This is an additional policy that's going to be mandatory for employers, at least over a certain size and so they're going to have to spend some human resources, time and expense on trying to develop this as well as that recent disconnecting from work policy as part of the last package of legislation,” Courtemanche said.

“I think employers are also going to need to some guidance from the province on what their expectations are going to be for such a policy and what monitoring is going to be considered as part of these new obligations."  

"Most I.T. elements have the ability to track at least certain elements of computer use or network use, but in my view that's different from what active monitoring might be and so there may need to be some clarity on in that,” said Roy.

“Bottom line though, I think this is going to cause employers to reconsider any long term work from home arrangements."

The Sudbury Workers' Education and Advocacy Centre's T.T. Scott said it's a good first step but there are some elements of the bill it doesn't like.

Scott said in a lot of cases, workers are being unnecessarily or unfairly tracked for things that aren't appropriate.

"We really need to do more for workers,” she said. “You highlighted the fact all these terrible things are going on but what is the government doing to fix that?" Top Stories

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