April 1, 2021
‘Right to Disconnect’ must be enshrined in law – Louise O’Reilly TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, has said that a code of practice instead of a legal ‘Right to Disconnect’ is not good enough for workers who are experiencing excessive out of hours contact on a daily basis.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The failure of the Tánaiste and the government to enshrine a ‘Right to Disconnect’ in law is incredibly frustrating and disappointing, especially when Sinn Féin, and others, have put forward workable legislative solutions to do so.

“The establishment of a code of practice is a welcome first step, but if an employer ignores this or breaches it, it is not an offence, and therefore there is no compellability factor.

“The reality is this code of practice does not confer a single additional legal right on workers.

“For some time now excessive out of hours contact has been an issue for workers, and the pandemic has only made this worse.

“The lines between work time and personal time have been totally eroded by technological developments that have led to an ‘always on’ culture.

“Workers are contactable and readily available to receive work emails, calls, text messages, WhatsApp messages, and push notifications at every hour of the day, every day of the week.

“Throughout the pandemic countless workers have relayed how they are totally drained and stressed due to employers contacting them late at night, or at the weekend, requesting a task to be completed immediately.

“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.

“That was why, last November, I introduced the Organisation of Working Time (Amendment) (Right to Disconnect) Bill 2020 to ensure proper regulation of excessive out-of-hours contact between employers and staff via email, messaging app or phone, and give workers a legal right to disconnect, or switch off, from work.

“The current situation where workers are excessively contacted is unfair, unhealthy, and it also hurts productivity as a burnt-out worker cannot perform to the best of their ability.

“As ever, this state is playing catch up in relation to workers’ rights, and a code of practice on this issue does not reflect the seriousness of this problem.

“Workers not only deserve a legal right to disconnect which is protected in law, but they absolutely need it, for their physical and mental health, for their wellbeing, and for their productivity.”

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