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Is There a Right to Disconnect?

Dr. Anshul Mishra Never Let The “What If" get in the way of what you do! “I think therefore I am”. I’m on my journey.

Why the pop up?

Every one of us has received that one annoying email on a day off that we dreaded opening. With the advent of technology and the transition of our workplace from brick and mortar structure to that little corner in our house, there is no clear defining line where work ends. For a long time, many have let those after-hours communications slide but major changes are coming to ensure the grunts of your boss don’t reach your home, well at least not after hours.

What's happening?

All around the world, disgruntled employees have made it very clear that they do not wish to receive any work-related communication post-work. Governments are trying to table laws to please the common populace while employers have already either started falling in line or are working around the clock to circumvent the proposed changes by using diverse interpretations of the legal words.

How does it concern you?

If you are an employee and your workplace values you and your mental wellbeing, they should already have a written policy. Even if you are an employer then the reason for implementing this are the same. You respect your employee's personal life then do not bug them even if it is urgent because they are not been paid for that time and hence they owe no obligation, whatsoever, to respond to your last-minute Whatsapp message.

What's happening across the globe?

The new laws/policies, commonly referred to as the Right to Disconnect are been drafted but their implementation has been largely limited to countries in the European Union and a few South American nations. In some countries, especially in Europe, the right to disconnect is somehow incorporated into the law, but it may also be included in the policies of many large corporations.

Many countries have tabled and passed bills of similar nature like Chile, Peru, and Canada (Ontario’s Bill 27), whereas others are struggling to pass the draft beyond the committee levels like the City of New York and the Philippines. More recently, Ireland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Argentina have made moves to introduce similar rules.

What does that mean:

It means that Governments of the above-mentioned countries have started acknowledging the stress post-work communication can cause on an employee and are working toward providing a viable solution to enhance the mental wellbeing of their workers. It also makes it clear that the voices of the indignant workforce have reached the upper echelons of the policymakers and that they are forced to make amends to the unchecked powers of the corporate giants. This change can spark massive reforms and set precedence in the field of Employee Protection/Labor laws in other countries.

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What is not clear:

  • If companies cannot negotiate an agreement with employees on the use of information and communications technology, they are required to adopt an employer-created “charter”.
  • It is not made with the new Hybrid & WFH (work from home) routines and is centred around the traditional workday.
  • It can not be applied feasibly to sectors where a routine workday can not be defined like healthcare workers.
  • These policies may make employers take a strict line with employees forcing them to take time off to attend to personal matters during work hours and work later without overtime pay.
  • The act of contacting an employee in case of emergency can not accurately be defined as to what is considered an emergency and under what context would it be compensated.
  • Most policies are vaguely worded and provide very little guideline as to what to do in case of a breach of the agreement.

Bottom-line:

While the laws are surely a step in the right direction and aspirational, it doesn’t clearly differentiate between different job types, and sectors. It is open to interpretation and the possibility of future amendments. Further research on this ever-changing job market is required to implement future amends and provide employees with a healthy balance so they can exercise their right to rest, and privacy.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Dr Anshul Mishra

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