Give workers the right to disconnect

The right to disconnect

As the Olympics take place, Community is calling for a better world of work for everyone. This blog is part of a ten part series outlining the changes we want to see to create that better world. 

You’ll know the feeling. It’s late on at night, you’re watching the tv and you’re settled down for the evening. Then within a couple of hours, and you’re not sure how it happened, but you’ve found yourself working.

Improvements in technology can make the world of work a better place – increasing flexibility and providing more freedom and opportunity. However, this is not a guarantee.

As technology has evolved, the ways to reach us and for us to be able to work constantly have grown. The line between work and home has now blurred.

Where once work could only take place in an office setting, thanks so smartphones and cloud servers many people can now work whenever, wherever.

This was already an issue before the pandemic, but with the increased advent of home-working this is set to become a growing trend.

“A work-life balance is essential. It helps reduce stress and helps you keep up with hobbies, friends and family.”

Whilst ease of flexible working is positive, this can also lead to an “always on” culture that has a detrimental effect on workers.

According to research conducted by Opinium on behalf of Prospect, 35% of remote workers said their work-related mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic. 42% of these workers stated that this is at least partly a result of an inability to switch off from work. In addition, 30% report working more unpaid hours than before the pandemic.

Currently in the U.K., there is no legal right to disconnect from work enshrined in law. This leaves us behind the pace of our neighbours, with countries like France, Italy and Spain who have already passed legislation protecting their workers.

Ireland is one of the first countries to rewrite it’s employment law with a post Covid world in mind. Irish workers have the right to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours; not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters out of hours; and a duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect.

Some businesses, recognising the need to support their employees, have introduced measures to give their workers a right to disconnect. For example, at car company Volkswagen, non-management employees reportedly cannot access their email on their smartphones from 6:15pm to 7:00am.

A work-life balance is essential. It helps reduce stress, keep up with hobbies, friends and family and have an all round enjoyable life.

Technology has evolved faster than our legislation has been able to keep up. In the last Queen’s Speech, the first since the pandemic begun, the government missed a major opportunity to introduce a new employment bill to protect.

As we enter this radically new world of work, it’s time for U.K workers to be given the protection they deserve. We echo calls from across the union movement – we need the right to disconnect.

To call for a right to disconnect, sign the petition here.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at or on 0800 389 6332.

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