Right to Disconnect vital for workers' quality of life

1 Apr 2021

Remote Working

Responding to the launch of the WRC Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect, Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Patricia King said: “Trade unions have been to the fore in highlighting that existing checks on excessive working hours have become increasingly strained by advances in communication technology, an always-on work culture and boom in remote working. Protections must keep pace with modern ways of working if workers’ hard-won rights are to be preserved.

“The new Code gives guidance and best practice to organisations and workers on the right to not engage in any work-related tasks, activities or communications outside of agreed working time and not to be penalised for exercising this right. The Code is vital for safeguarding work-life balance and better enforcement of existing laws regulating hours of employment and protecting workers’ wellbeing, given the seismic changes in work practices” Ms King said.

Social policy officer, Dr Laura Bambrick said: “The scope of the Code is much more than digital rights for workers to switch-off from work-related calls and emails at the end of their working day. It applies to all types of work and all types of employment, not only remote working. In this respect, the Code will be an important tool to help tackle the longstanding issue of workers regularly doing unpaid overtime.”

Dr Bambrick added: “When the occasional intrusion on a worker’s personal time to get a project finished or an order filled becomes the norm this becomes a health and safety issue. An overtired worker is a danger to themselves and others. Excessive working time also squeezes out family, friends, hobbies, sports, and involvement in the wider community. Dissolving work-life boundaries is not victimless.”

Ms King said: “On behalf of workers, I extend thanks to the WRC for their work on this important new Code of Practice. ICTU and trade union reps around the country will ensure its full and proper implementation.”