Disconnecting from Work Guideline

The University of Waterloo is committed to creating a healthy workplace and we strive to achieve our goal of an employee-focused, sustainable work environment by prioritizing the health and well-being of all employees. We encourage and support our employees to prioritize their own social, emotional, spiritual, physical and psychological health, safety and the quality of their lives.

Disconnecting from work is important for an individual’s well-being, and helps employees achieve a healthy and sustainable work-life balance. Disconnecting from work is the ability to not engage in work-related communications, including emails, telephone calls, video calls or the sending or reviewing of other messages outside of working hours.

This guideline outlines the University’s obligations in supporting employees in balancing their work and personal lives, whether working traditional hours in the workplace, remotely, or under a work from home arrangement. This guideline also describes what employees can do to report concerns about their ability to disconnect from work.

This guideline should be read alongside any relevant and applicable legislation and the following policies on the Secretariat's website:

Nothing in this guideline is intended to amend or supersede any grievance procedure or other aspect of any applicable collective agreement or policy.


This guideline applies to all employees, as defined by the Ontario Employment Standards Act, 2000 (the “ESA”). This means the policy applies to:

  • all staff members as defined in Policy 54, specifically all full-time, part-time, temporary, casual staff and members of unionized groups;
  • all faculty members as defined in Policy 76 including regular faculty appointments, other faculty appointments, miscellaneous appointments at any length of term or load;
  • all student teaching assistants or research assistants; and
  • all Co-op students employed by the University of Waterloo.

Ability to Disconnect from Work

Though all employees are entitled to the ability to disconnect from work, the times of day and the days of the week are likely to vary significantly. The University of Waterloo recognizes that there are substantial and significant differences between the normal working times and days of its employees and employee groups. The University therefore acknowledges the need for supervisors and employees to have discretion in setting appropriate and agreeable times for work, subject to the duties and obligations of the employee’s position, an employee’s employment contract, applicable collective agreement and/or their minimum statutory entitlements under the Employment Standards Act.

Nothing in the guideline precludes the University or other employees of the University from contacting colleagues, vendors/other third parties or other employees outside of what may be considered working hours or standard business hours, subject to any rights or entitlements the receiving colleague or employee may have under their employment contract, applicable collective agreement and/or their minimum statutory entitlements under the ESA.

This guideline does not afford employees a “right to disconnect” beyond what is within their individual employment contract, applicable collective agreement and/or their minimum statutory entitlements under the ESA, which may include rights or entitlements regarding: hours of work and hours free from work, overtime pay, meal and/or rest periods, public holidays and public holiday pay, and vacation.

University Obligations

The University supports and aims to foster a workplace culture that promotes and values disconnecting from work. To achieve this goal, the University will take steps to ensure that all employees are:

  • informed of what their working hours are reasonably expected to be and are informed of the circumstances, if any, in which they will be expected to engage in work-related communications outside their working hours;
  • able to take applicable meal, rest periods and hours free from work as required by law, contract or applicable collective agreement language; and
  • able to take vacation or other leave entitlements as required by law, contract or applicable collective agreement language.

Supervisors are required to:

  • be mindful of employees’ working hours (e.g., not expect responses from employees outside of their agreed working hours); and
  • respond to questions or concerns regarding disconnecting from work from those employees they supervise.

Employee Obligations

The University expects all employees to comply with the provisions outlined in this guideline. If, in the course of their work, employees feel their workload is preventing them from taking meal or rest breaks, receiving periods free from work that they are entitled to, or otherwise being able to disconnect from work, they should speak with their supervisor, manager, Union or Association.

Employees are also required to:

  • co-operate fully with any applicable mechanism utilized by the University to record working time or update their working status (e.g., out-of-office messages) as applicable; and
  • be mindful of colleagues’, vendors’ and other third parties’ working hours (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside of working hours or expecting answers or responses outside of working hours).

Reporting Concerns

If you are concerned that you are not able to disconnect from work you must report your concerns or issues to your immediate supervisor. If your concerns are not resolved after speaking with your supervisor, you should report your concerns in writing.

If it is not appropriate to report your concerns or issues to your supervisor, or the matter is not resolved by doing so, you should direct your concerns or issues to your supervisor’s manager.

Employees will not be subject to reprisal for reporting, in good faith, such concerns as outlined above or for inquiring about, exercising or attempting to exercise any rights as provided under the ESA.

All employees are also strongly encouraged to seek professional and/or medical assistance as they see fit if such concerns relate to their health and wellbeing, and the University has resources and supports available to employees.  Employees can contact the Employee Assistance Program provider, or where there are medical concerns, can connect with Occupational Health for more information.

Implemented on: 2 June 2022.