November 12, 2020
Louise O’Reilly TD introduces bill to give workers a legal ‘Right to Disconnect’

Louise OR' ReillySinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers’ Rights Louise O’Reilly TD has introduced a bill to give workers a legal ‘Right to Disconnect, or switch off, from work, outside of their work hours’.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Teachta O’Reilly said: “With social, economic, and technological development, work practices change.

“Sometimes this is for the better and these changes can make life, and our jobs, easier, reduce stress, ease difficulties, and improve productivity. However, sometimes these developments, unregulated or uncontrolled, end up being damaging, stress inducing, and make jobs more difficult.

“For many workers, developments in the area of technology have proven to do both.

“Such technological developments have led to an ‘always on” culture, where workers are contactable and readily available to receive work emails, calls, text messages, and push notifications at every hour of the day, every day of the week.

“The situation has become more acute during the public health lockdowns. Countless workers have relayed how they are totally drained and stressed in their job due to employers contacting them late at night and requesting for a task to be completed for a morning Zoom meeting or virtual call.

“Such situations have had a devastating impact on workers, and needless to say, the work-related stress created by these situations is a key driver in the mental health endemic which has swept the world of work in recent years.

“There has been a strong campaign in this state amongst trade unions to deliver a ‘Right to Disconnect’ for workers.

“As a result, I have introduced this bill which seeks to regulate excessive out-of-hours contact between employers and staff via email, messaging app or phone, and essentially give them a legal right to disconnect, or switch off, from work.

“It further makes it a requirement of employers to put in place a right to disconnect policy to establish the hours when employees are not supposed to send or answer work-related e-mails, texts, or calls, and this is to be put in place in consultation with their employees and, where applicable, the relevant trade union.

“It therefore allows an employee to waive their right to disconnect, but only with their consent.

“The bill builds upon the social contract and industrial relations machinery in order to deliver a more productive and less stressful working environment for workers.”

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