EU moves on rights for staff to unplug

The European Union has begun moves to enable staff working from to be able to officially “disconnect”.

As research found over a third of EU workers are now operating from home the European parliament has voted to allowed staff to unplug the internet and turn off their phones in order to truly disconnect from their work. Under the plan employers will have no recourse to implement any consequences on staff who switch off for a period of time.

In a resolution adopted this week the European parliament’s Employment Committee said that EU countries must ensure that workers are able to exercise the right to disconnect effectively, including by means of collective agreements. They point out that this right is vital to protect workers’ health.

It comes amid fears that a rising culture of being “always on” and the growing expectation that workers should be reachable at any time can negatively affect work-life balance, physical and mental health, and well-being, the Employment Committee asserts.

They have urged the Commission to propose an EU Directive on the Right to Disconnect, since this right is not explicitly enshrined in EU law. MEPs also stressed that being able to switch off from work should be a fundamental right, permitting workers to refrain from work-related tasks and electronic communication outside working hours without facing any repercussions.

The non-legislative resolution is expected to be voted on in a plenary session in January 2021. Once endorsed by Parliament, it will be put forward to the Commission and EU countries for implementation as part of future regulatory decisions.

According to Eurofound, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, over a third of EU workers now work from home. There is currently no European legal framework directly defining and regulating the right to switch off. The widespread use of digital tools and information and communication technologies (ICT) makes it possible to work from anywhere, at any time.

“These technologies can have harmful consequences, extending working hours, blurring boundaries between work and private life, and contributing to some types of ‘work nomadism’, all exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis,” said a spokesman.