CESI calls on EC to table proposal for directive on right to be disconnected

On January 21st, the European Parliament published a legislative initiative report, urging the European Commission to table a legislative proposal on a right to disconnect.

On January 21st, the European Parliament published a legislative initiative report, urging the European Commission to table a legislative proposal on a right to disconnect. CESI supports this call, stresses however the need for a right to be disconnected (automatically) from employment-related communcation rather than a (likely ineffective) right to voluntarily disconnect.

The report tabled by the European Parliament on a right to disconnect, which includes a concrete suggestion of a text for a new EU directive, represents a formal request by the European Parliament towards the European Commission to come forward with a proposal for legislation to make sure that an always-on culture is prevented in remote and home office work.

According to the European Parliament, the directive shoud “lay down minimum requirements to enable workers who use digital tools, including ICT, for work purposes, to exercise their right to disconnect and to ensure that employers respect workers’ right to disconnect” and “apply to all sectors, both public and private, and to all workers, independent of their status and their working arrangements.”

According to report, Member States should be obliged to ensure, specifically, that:

  • discrimination, less favourable treatment, dismissal and other adverse measures by employers on the ground that workers have exercised or have sought to exercise their right to disconnect are prohibited.
  • employers provide each worker in writing with clear, sufficient and adequate information on their right to disconnect, including a statement setting out the terms of any applicable collective or other agreements.
  • employers protect workers, including workers’ representatives, from any adverse treatment and from any adverse consequences resulting from a complaint lodged with the employer or resulting from any proceedings initiated with the aim of enforcing compliance with the right to disconnect.
  • workers whose right to disconnect is violated have access to swift, effective, and impartial dispute resolution and a right of redress in the case of infringements of their rights, and that they may provide trade union organisations or other workers’ representatives with a possibility, on behalf or in support of the workers and with their approval, to engage in administrative proceedings with the objective of ensuring compliance with or enforcement of the right to disconnect.

CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger said: “The lockdowns during the Covid pandemic have shown that remote working often results in excessive overtime for workers, where employers expect or even demand an ‘always on’-culture. We strongly back the European Palriament in its request towards the European Commission to address the matter via a directive. Especially if remote and home working will stay relatively common after the pandemic has been overcome, it is imperative for the health and safety and work-life balance of workers that rules are put in place to ensure that their working time is predictable and includes clear rules on rest periods and time off.”

Klaus Heeger added: “A right to be disconnected would however be much more effective than a right to disconnect. In the former case, digital communication with the employer is switched off automatically, while a right to disconnect is essentially voluntary: Even if the right exists on paper, pressure to stay online and to continue to work long hours increases where workers need to stay in good terms with their employers, for instance to get a promotion, and hence not disappoint them by going offline. This is especially true in larger teams where there is a natural competition among colleagues to advance their careers. We will make sure to raise this matter at the European Commission.”

The full report of the European Parliament is available here.