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Do we have a right to disconnect?

By Jenna Tarry of WR Partners

With remote working in high demand, and greater flexibility surrounding when work can be completed, research has suggested the lines between the home and the workplace have become blurred, as the working day creeps into personal leisure time.

Ireland in response to the pandemic implemented a code of practice for all employees. The three key rights enshrined in the code are:

Other countries including France, Italy, Spain, Slovakia and the Philippines, already have right to disconnect rules in place, which essentially protect a worker’s rights not to respond to communications outside of working hours and not be penalised for doing so.

Unions are now calling for greater protections for workers in the UK, proposing for a new legislation that would create a ‘right to disconnect’.

The proposal states employers should “not require a worker to monitor or respond to any work-related communications, or to carry out any work, outside the agreed working hours, or subject the worker to any detriment for failing to do so”.

There would be proposed exemptions for industries where this is not feasible and where the employer has made all reasonable steps to minimise working outside agreed hours.

Deputy leader of the Labour party Angela Rayner has supported the move saying: “Alongside the right to flexible working, there must be the right to disconnect. It is only fair that workers can establish healthy boundaries, switching off and disconnecting from work outside working hours.

"We cannot find ourselves in a place where workers are expected to compromise their families, responsibilities or hobbies in order to meet employer expectations."

So, whilst it may seem beneficial that staff are regularly working out of hours, this can be damaging long term. Workers who are not able to ‘switch off’ can become burned out, less productive, and disillusioned in their roles.  The right to disconnect looks to counteract this, encouraging switch off when not working.

Pictured: Jenna Tarry