We would advise that you exercise caution when it comes to confirming the fine print in this particular policy. There is a degree of common sense that must be applied.
The “Right to Disconnect” policy is gaining traction in the UK as more and more employees call on the government to implement legislation to encourage companies to review expectations of staff – particularly when it comes to working outside of standard work hours.
The Union, Prospect, has found that two-thirds of workers are in favour of having the right to disconnect implemented in UK employment law.
It’s no secret that the adoption of a remote working model across many industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic has blurred the boundaries between work and home life more than ever. According to a recent report, 38 per cent of Brits have admitted to working longer hours from home, with 41 per cent saying they regularly work through their lunch break.
What is a right to disconnect?
Put simply, the right to disconnect is a piece of legislation put in place to support workers who may be struggling to keep their work and home lives separate when working remotely. It would enable protections around official working hours and the expectation on employees when they are asked to work outside of their contractual hours.
Having already been implemented in other countries, including Ireland, the government is being urged to consider a similar addition to the Employment Bill to protect worker’s mental health and promote a positive work-life balance.
What are the employer benefits?
I would certainly encourage employers to engage positively with a potential “Right to Disconnect” policy in their respective workplaces, irrelevant of whether the Bill is introduced formally into employment law. We’re all well aware of the strain the past twelve months has placed on establishing an effective work-life balance, and looking ahead, it appears that a hybrid model of office and home working will be a popular choice across businesses up and down the country.
A formal policy that encourages employees to switch off from work for the day will go a long way in restoring the work-life balance that has been missing for many. Not forgetting the overall advantage this will offer employers. A motivated, refreshed workforce will likely result in higher productivity during working hours if given the proper time to rest and recuperate in the evening.
What are the broader implications?
As with any new policy, it would be naive to think that a universal “right to disconnect” could be implemented across multiple industries. With many businesses operating within different opening hours and differing employee expectations across sectors, it’s important to ensure that any “right to disconnect” policy is realistic and reflective of the everyday expectations placed on your staff.
It is advisable to consult with your staff on how they feel about their current work-life balance and implement a relevant policy that will help combat this. Measures could include management training on respecting boundaries out of work hours, and any expectations on the employer when their staff are deemed “contactable” should be communicated. Moreover, if matters are urgent or unexpected issues should arise, it should be appropriately communicated that staff may be expected to provide additional support outside of work hours.
We’ll continue to monitor this proposed policy as things progress, but if any employers would like support on how to protect their employees and actively promote improved work-life balance through amendments to their contractual policies, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team.