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MEPs call for European ‘right to disconnect’ from work

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Members of the European Parliament have approved a motion calling for the right for employees to switch off work-related devices at the end of the working day.

The motion was passed by the parliament’s employment committee by 31 votes to six, with 18 abstentions.

The issue has become particularly important this year with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the increase in people working from home. However it was already a growing problem as more people because connected 24 hours a day by computers, laptops and mobile phones.

According to Eurofound – the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions – more than one in three workers in the EU have moved over to working from home at least part of the time. Before the pandemic, the number was closer to 5%.

In some countries, however, more than half did so – including Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Finland led the way with 60%.

That has many advantages, not least for private and public health, but it also tends to blur the line between work and home. Where once the end of the day meant leaving the physical office to go home, now the distinction is less clear, as the home has become the office.

The culture of being ‘always on’ and the growing expectation that workers should be reachable at any time can negatively affect work-life balance, physical and mental health, and well-being, the Committee said.

More autonomy has a downside of possibly increasing the intensity of work, arising from constant interruptions, pressure from colleagues and managers, and heavy workload,” the Eurofound study says.

In these circumstances, autonomy turns from an asset into a liability. This tends to be a problem especially for workers and managers who are new to regular telework. In the present crisis, it could be exacerbated if workers, or the company that employs them, find it hard to adapt and communicate in the new environment.”

The parliament is now calling on the Commission to propose an EU Directive on the Right to Disconnect, since this right is not explicitly enshrined in EU law.

MEPs also stress that being able to switch off from work should be a fundamental right , permitting workers to refrain from work-related tasks and electronic communication outside working hours without facing any repercussions.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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