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High time for an EU law to ensure the right to disconnect, urge S&Ds

Date

12 Dec 2023

Sections

Global Europe

The European Commission must come up with a legislative proposal without any further delay to ensure the right to disconnect, the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament will urge during a plenary debate today.

Alex Saliba, S&D vice-president and European Parliament’s rapporteur on the right to disconnect, said:

 “It has been three years since the European Parliament first called for a European law on the right to disconnect to clearly define boundaries between working and free time in the new digital era. The human cost of blurred boundaries is high: from unpaid overtime, insufficient rest periods and longer working hours, to work-related stress, exhaustion, burnout, isolation, fatigue, and depression.

“In 2021, with the Covid-19 pandemic profoundly changing the nature of work, the Parliament asked for a directive to defend workers from ‘digital obesity’ as well as to legislate the right to disconnect and telework in Europe, striving for a culture of respect for workers’ free time. 

“We requested today’s debate, after social partners failed to reach an agreement, to call on the Commission to act without further delay and at the latest before the end of this mandate. This is key to ensure the right to disconnect at a European level and protect all workers from work-related phone calls and emails outside working time, or during different types of leave and holidays, without facing any negative consequences. We consider this a fundamental right that must be an integral part of new working patterns in the new digital age.”

Agnes Jongerius, S&D spokesperson for employment, added: 

“It is a shame that the social dialogue on such an important topic failed, with employers abandoning the negotiations. Various types of work nomadism can cause serious health issues and negatively affect work-life balance. The grim statistics offer many reasons why it is crucial to act now.  

“The pressure to be always ‘on’, always reachable, is growing as the boundaries between private life and work life are increasingly blurred. Working from home makes it particularly difficult to switch off. 

“Recent studies* show that people who regularly work from home are twice as likely to work more than the maximum 48 hours per week as laid down in EU law. Eight out of ten workers reported that they regularly receive work-related communications outside their working hours.”

*Note to editors: 

More data is available in the latest report by the EU agency for the improvement of living and working conditions, Eurofound, published on 30 November 2023: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/en/publications/2023/right-disconnect-implementation-and-impact-company-level

Findings show several differences between workers in companies with a right to disconnect policy and those without. A larger share of workers in companies without this right said they experienced health issues, such as frequent headaches, stress and anxiety. Companies with a right to disconnect policy report higher job satisfaction and better work-life balance. Over 70% of workers in these companies with a right to disconnect policy considered its impact to be positive.

 

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