Right to disconnect
Adopted by Eurocadres Executive Committee 20 April 2021.
The increased use of digital mobile tools which allows for work regardless of time and place is intricately linked to today’s rapid changes in work organisation. Workers have more flexibility and autonomy over the work they perform. However, being constantly connected can blur the boundaries between time on and off work and puts the right to disconnect under pressure. It brings challenges to work organisation and management, leading to drastic increases in ill mental health, including burn out. This affects especially professionals and managers. Currently no legislation regulates the right to disconnect on EU level, and only four EU countries have adopted such legislation. These laws are, however, not perfect and guarantee the right to certain types of workers only. In some EU countries the legislation has come to a standstill, whereas several countries have debated the issue. The increased amount of telework due to the Covid-19 pandemic will hopefully accelerate the debate and see a need for EU-wide regulation.
Eurocadres is in favour of legislation defining the right to disconnect. Trade unions have an important part to play in social dialogue and collective bargaining on the issue. We have the responsibility to develop and promote remedies which can be tailored through sectoral and company collective bargaining. Work-life balance is a right that needs to be protected. We can promote healthier work culture by changing the perception that “everything is urgent”.
Technological innovations easily lead to larger workloads, thus increasing the risk of a larger mental load. The time to switch off becomes shorter and reduces the possibilities to recover. Indeed, in order to be able to recover properly, it is essential to be able to disconnect physically and psychologically. Dependence on mobile phones promotes irregular and disturbed sleep which has a negative impact on mental and physical health.
Existing legislation does not really leave up to the standards of modern working life and digitalisation. Many professionals and managers are already in a disadvantaged situation due to the derogation in the Working Time Directive, which basically allows unlimited weekly working hours. Therefore, practical tools and codes of conduct on how to limit constant connection would prove to be useful. Employers should, regardless of the size and amount of employees, establish systems that administer disconnection. Such tools could include keeping a record of connection and working time (without compromising privacy), deferring to send emails outside working hours and during weekends and vacation or introducing no-call days. Furthermore, managers need training on how to secure the work-life balance of workers to prevent psychosocial risks.
We find it important that the right to disconnect will not be linked to the Autonomous Framework Agreement on Digitalisation. This will hugely delay the process of reaching any agreements on the right to disconnect. The role of social partners is immensely important and the problems relating to not disconnecting must be addressed wherever possible in social dialogue and collective bargaining. We need actions now, not later. Eurocadres insists that the European Commission launches without further delay a legislative initiative on the application and enforcement of the right to disconnect in form of a self-standing directive.
- Calls for a directive on the right to disconnect
- Supports legislation that applies to all workers irrespective of their employment status
- Recalls the responsibility of employers for health and safety and the need to establish effective measures at the workplace to enable employees to exercise their right to disconnect
- calls for a new EU directive to tackle the stress epidemic, which addresses psychosocial risks, violence and harassment and improves work organisation
- underlines the importance of collective bargaining
- finds that clear policies on e-mails, mobile phone use and other digital tools is essential: Workers should have the right to switch off work-related tools and not to respond to employers’ requests outside collectively agreed working time nor to engage in work-related tasks, activities or communications outside working time
- finds that although the current Framework Directive on Occupational Safety and Health at Work obliges the employer to mitigate risks, it does not offer enough clarity to rectify the situation
 Belgium, France, Spain, Italy.