Advances in technology means people can easily end up being made to work even after they’ve left the office, but a Maltese MEP has moved a step closer towards ensuring the right to disconnect is legally enshrined in EU law.
Alex Agius Saliba has drafted a report calling for an EU right to disconnect after working hours, and it was recently approved by the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.
This means a plenary vote will now be taken on this report.
“Digitisation brings many benefits and advantages for employees like greater flexibility or less commuting, however, there are also pitfalls,” Agius Saliba said.
“The pressure to be always reachable, always available is mounting. Working hours are extended and not necessarily fairly compensated. The boundaries between work and private life have become blurred. The human cost is high: from un-paid over time, to exhaustion and burnout.”
He said the rise in remote working in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has made more people become “victims” of their own electronic devices.
“We all know the feeling of constant pressure to check in the evening, during the weekend, and in our free time, for work-related emails and messages, worried that our employer will demand our immediate attention. We have all received work-related calls and felt obliged to answer and work in our free time. Such practices must stop, and that is why we need a European Right to Disconnect. “
“During lockdown, one in three workers started working from home. For sure, telework has saved countless lives, but after months of remote working, many workers suffer from negative side-effects such as isolation, fatigue depression, burn out, muscular or eye illnesses. Studies show that people who regularly work from home are twice as likely to work more than the maximum of 48 hours per week laid down in EU law. Working from home makes it particularly difficult to switch off.”
On a Maltese level, Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister Carmelo Abela has said plans are already underway to enshrine the right to disconnect in Maltese law.
He proudly said Malta will become the first EU country to legalise this right but didn’t give any details about how it will work in practice.
Should the right to disconnect become law?