Brussels, 15 February 2021

Right to disconnect

Following the adoption of a resolution on this subject by the European Parliament,

The Commission must now present a proposal for a bill on the right to disconnect

On January 21, the European Parliament (EP) adopted the resolution concerning recommendations to the Commission on the right to disconnect ( 2019/2181(INL) ) since, to date, there is no legislation on this subject.

With this resolution, the EP wants to protect the fundamental right of workers to disconnect and not to be available after office hours.

R&was the first Union to demand the Right to Disconnect in order to preserve the health of the staff during this health crisis (see: Le Renard Déchaîne special Right to Disconnect ). We are receiving more and more complaints from colleagues who find themselves overworked by their service, no longer being able to preserve their privacy and finding themselves on the verge of professional burnout and / or plagued by health issues such as musculoskeletal problems.

A culture of “permanent connection”

It is thanks to the digital tools that generalized teleworking has been made possible during this health crisis resulting in increased flexibility to services and staff, greater autonomy, and the potential to improve work-life balance and reduced commuting times,

However, these digital tools have created a culture of “permanent connection” with its drawbacks such as a number of ethical, legal and employment related challenges, such as intensifying work and extending working hours, thus blurring the boundaries between work and private life (see resolution point B). Workers become available at all hours …

MEPs stress that this can have a detrimental effect on:

  • · workers’ fundamental rights and fair working conditions,
  • · limitation of working time,
  • · work-life balance,
  • · physical and mental health,
  • · safety at work,
  • · well-being…

In addition, MEPs recall that “the use of digital tools for extended periods of time may cause a reduction of concentration as well as cognitive and emotional overload; whereas monotonous repetitive manipulations and static posture over long periods of time may lead to muscle strain and musculoskeletal disorders; whereas the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radio-frequency radiation as a possible carcinogenic; whereas pregnant women may be at particular risk when exposed to radio-frequency radiation … that excessive use of technological devices can aggravate phenomena such as isolation, techno-addiction, sleep deprivation, emotional exhaustion, anxiety and burnout … as well as increased monitoring of the worker by way of these new intrusive technologies.

The right to disconnect: a fundamental right also for the European Commission!

In order to remedy all these risks generated by the “permanent connection” of the staff, R&calls on Commissioner Hahn to set up a real policy on the Right to disconnect within the Institution, especially since the health crisis continues and it is highly likely that the staff will opt for more teleworking when they return to normal life, by following the following recommendations:

  • · Define a time slot when staff will be available and which is respected by the services
  • · Do not exceed 48 hours of work per week while preserving 11 hours of interruption between working days and having the possibility of recovering overtime
  • · Prohibit work during free time, holidays, illness …
  • · Prohibit all meetings ending after 5:30 p.m.
  • · Prohibit any possibility of surveillance using digital technologies
  • · Train staff on these new tools so that they can work satisfactorily and efficiently without overworking colleagues who have mastered them
  • · Establish a framework regulating the minimum requirements for voluntary teleworking
  • · Evaluate the psychosocial risks due to this new model of work
  • · Establish a real social dialogue in order to design and adopt a reference text

R&supports the recommendations of the European Parliament and invites the Commission, as requested by the EP, to include the right to disconnect in its new strategy on health and safety at work and to expressly develop new psychosocial measures and actions in the context of health and safety at work, and to present a proposal for a bill on the right to disconnect.

Cristiano Sebastiani,