More Countries Are Banning Emails and Calls From Bosses During Off-Hours

Employees want the "right to disconnect" from their workplace, but flexible hours and WFH scenarios have made the idea more difficult

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Will more countries allow workers to legally stop work after hours?
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Will the U.K. become the next region to ban off-hours communication from your boss?

According to the BBC, that’s the hope of the trade union Prospect, which is asking the government for a legally binding “right to disconnect” for employees. The move comes as COVID-19 and telecommuting have blurred lines and made the distinction between work and home much, much worse.

“While digital technology has kept us safe during the pandemic, for millions of people, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office, making it harder to fully switch off,” said Andrew Pakes, Prospect’s deputy general secretary.

France has had a “right to disconnect” law on the books for four years — essentially, this means employees don’t have to take calls or read emails related to work during their time off. The law stemmed from a court ruling that said an employee not answering a phone call outside of normal work hours was not a valid cause for dismissal.  

In the U.K., the Office for National Statistics suggests that time saved from commuting in the last year was offset by an average of six hours of unpaid overtime employees were performing each week.

While Ireland recently introduced its own right-to-disconnect code (Italy and Spain have already done so) and structured it around the new reality of both office and remote-work situations, some people think the new “freedoms” of working out of office may actually prevent a scenario where work and home life are completely separated. That’s due to flexible hours and timetables, which further complicate the idea of a typical work day.

“The challenge with applying a right to disconnect [in any country] just now is that employees are becoming accustomed to choosing different working hours every day,” Eileen Schofield, a U.K. employee rights lawyer with Schofield and Associates, told the BBC. “The right to disconnect is likely to mean that this total flexibility will not be completely viable.”

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