1 February 2021
By Elaine Murphy
The European Parliament has called for an EU law that grants workers the right to digitally disconnect from work without facing negative repercussions.
MEPs are also looking to establish minimum requirements for remote working and clarify working conditions, hours and rest periods. Cork-based Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune has highlighted that this will take time but that the conversation must start to work out the best solutions for all.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has increased by almost 30%. This figure is expected to remain high or even increase. Research by Eurofound shows that people who work regularly from home are more than twice as likely to surpass the maximum of 48 working hours per week, compared to those working on their employer’s premises. Almost 30% of those working from home report working in their free time every day or several times a week, compared to less than 5% of office workers.
In the EU the EU Working Time Directive is there for a reason, according to MEP Clune and it exists to ensure that there are limits to the amount of time people spend at work.
Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune said:
“These are very difficult times for employees and businesses but it is important that with more people working from home that work does not overtake everything at home. It is vital, when needed that people work from home in order to keep themselves and others safe but it is important that both businesses and their employees work together at this time to manage the circumstances we are facing. The current pandemic situation has clearly demonstrated that remote and flexible employment can work successfully but having policies around the Right to Disconnect can help people enjoy a better work/life balance. This won’t happen overnight but it is something we can consider when looking at the future of work.”
MEP Clune said some companies in Ireland have already adopted ‘Right to Disconnect’ policies but more need to look at what they can do in this area. MEP Clune said she welcomes the focus being placed on this by the European Parliament.
“Many businesses have been fantastic to their employees during this Covid-19 crisis and the Right to Disconnect has come on the radar of many companies over the last year. We can all be guilty of checking emails on our phones or logging on quickly late at night but in order to maintain a good work/life balance we must ensure that this does not impact in a significant way.”
MEPs consider the right to disconnect a fundamental right that allows workers to refrain from engaging in work-related tasks – such as phone calls, emails and other digital communication – outside working hours. This includes holidays and other forms of leave. Member states are encouraged to take all necessary measures to allow workers to exercise this right, including via collective agreements between social partners. They should ensure that workers will not be subjected to discrimination, criticism, dismissal, or other adverse actions by employers.