To: Waterloo graduate students

From: James W.E. Rush, Vice-President, Academic & Provost

Subject: Read our new disconnecting from work guideline

Note: This email is for information

In 2021 the Ontario government passed Bill 27, which changed the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and requires employers including the University to prepare and implement a written “policy” for all employees on disconnecting from work.

As a graduate student, you may be in an employment relationship with the University in addition to your studies, for example as a teaching or research assistant

In compliance with the new law, we have developed a guideline that outlines our obligations in supporting you to balance your work and personal lives, whether working as a TA in person at the University, working remotely or in any other capacity as an employee of the University.   You can read the new guideline online on the Provost’s website.

It’s important to know that while the changes to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 did not create new rights for employees regarding issues such as hours of work, rest periods, vacation, beyond those already in the Act, the University is committed to creating a healthy workplace and supporting work/life balance as important determinations of quality of life.

As the guideline makes clear, all employees are entitled to the ability to disconnect from work. This ability to disconnect means that you are not typically expected or obliged to engage in any work-related communication, such as replying to emails, outside your normal work hours.

We know that you are juggling many complex challenges as a graduate student and the times of day and the days of the week that you are able to disconnect from work will vary. We also know that many of you work flexibly when it is convenient for you to work, or to accommodate your research and teaching obligations.

The ability to disconnect doesn’t mean you can’t send emails when it’s convenient for you to do so, but you shouldn’t expect the recipient to respond to you if it is outside their normal working hours.

This guideline applies to your supervisors, too. We’re asking supervisors to make sure that they are clear with you about the hours you are expected to work – for many of you this will mean you need to have a conversation with your supervisor to make sure you have agreed on work hours that also make sense for your life and studies.
This guideline also describes what you can do to report concerns about your ability to disconnect from work. Employees will not be subject to reprisal for reporting, in good faith, any concerns about their ability to disconnect from work.

As always, the University encourages positive, constructive and proactive conversations between graduate students, their supervisors, and faculty members with whom graduate students are working as TAs or RAs.  Students and their faculty colleagues should regularly engage in discussions on expectations that are supportive of the complex responsibilities our graduate students are managing.
If you have any questions about this new guideline, you can contact the team in Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Affairs.

2022 communications to graduate students