The Right to Disconnect

The new law is supposed to be an answer to problems overworking in the remote working model. The European Parliament has voted for the right to disconnect (be offline). The right to disconnect refers to situations, where despite having free time, we fulfill our official duties. Answering emails, performing work-related tasks or answering business phone calls should only take place during working hours.

The report submitted by MEP Alex Saliba on the “right to disconnect” was supported by 472 MEPs.

It’s very difficult to switch off during leisure time. We all know the feeling when we are under constant pressure. You feel that you constantly have to check emails, work-related messages, worrying that you are required to respond immediately. Statement by MEP Alex Saliba.

The problem was exacerbated during the pandemic, where a key solution for many companies was the introduction of remote working, which as it turned out, has some difficulties and risks. On average, it is estimated that up to a third of employees carry out their work duties from home, and the line between personal and professional life has begun to blur. A Eurofound study indicates that remote workers are more likely to exceed the threshold of 48 hours worked per week than stationary workers.

We’ve all been in that situation at some point, where we get calls or emails from work and feel obligated to respond even though we’re off. The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. Now more than a third of European workers work from home.

Now is the moment to stand by them and give them what they deserve: the right to disconnect. This is crucial for our mental and physical health. This is the time to update workers’ rights to reflect the realities of the digital age. — MEP Alex Saliba.

The new law is meant to address problems of overwork and the lack of a work-life balance. Polish MEPs are skeptical about the report, claiming that it will increase bureaucracy and that the current law is sufficient. In Poland, time off work is regulated by the Labor Code, Article 129.1: Working time cannot exceed 8 hours per day and an average of 40 hours in an average five-day working week. The Labor Code does not speak directly about the right to disconnect. It only talks about the right to rest or a break.

When asked about the adaptation of this law in different countries, Alex Saliba said that the law can be adapted to given conditions, but the adoption of the report means that some guidelines will have to be met. The undoubted advantage of this law will be for employees to maintain a work-life balance.

The right to disconnect is not a new idea. In countries like France and Belgium, this right is already available and covers employees of companies with more than 50 employees. This report gives all employees, no matter where they work or with whom, the right to a break from work.

Also some companies operating in Germany (e.g. Volkswagen) have implemented appropriate solutions on their own. Employees’ mailboxes do not receive business messages between 6.15 pm and 7 am.

The European Union took the first step, but it should be known that the report adopted by the European Parliament has no legal force. It is, so to speak, an appeal to the European Commission to initiate appropriate legislative action on the matter.