Home workers back union’s calls for Right to Disconnect

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Prospect union is calling on government to include a new ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy in the forthcoming Employment Bill.

The step would require companies to negotiate with their staff and agree rules on when people could not be contacted for work purposes.

According to Prospect’s poll carried out by Opinium, 66 per cent of those currently working remotely would support the policy.

Several other countries have already adopted the policy, including France in 2017, and more recently, Ireland. As of 1 April, workers in Ireland have the entitlement to “switch off” from their jobs outside of normal working hours, including not having to respond immediately to emails, telephone calls or other messages.

Employees should have the right to 'switch off' after work hours, including not responding to emails, says Prospect. Photograph: iStock

Announcing the campaign, Prospect's research director, Andrew Pakes said that creating the Right to Disconnect in the Employment Bill would help create a boundary between home and work.

He said: “People’s experience of working from home during the pandemic has varied wildly depending on their jobs, their home circumstances, and crucially the behaviour of their employers.

“It is clear that for millions of us, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office, with remote technology meaning it is harder to fully switch off, contributing to poor mental health.

“Remote working is here to stay, but it can be much better than it has been in recent months.”

A recent report by Aviva found that 40 per cent of employees work unpaid overtime most days of the week. More than half (52 per cent) of the 2,000 employees it surveyed agreed the boundaries between their work and home life are becoming increasingly blurred. Around one in five (19 per cent) were troubled by work interfering with their home and personal life.

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