- Justin Parkinson
- Political correspondent, BBC News
The trade union “Prospect”, which deals with major institutions in the United Kingdom such as the BBC, the Ministry of Defense and others, called on the country to pass a labor law similar to what France has been doing four years ago, which gives workers “the right to cut off contact with employers outside specified working hours.
Claire Mullally, an IT expert from Northern Ireland says: “Work has become more and more stressful over the past year, with employees constantly checking their email, answering phone calls and video calls and making sure they have them on hand throughout the day. Separation of work and personal life.
Claire argues that the situation she and millions of other employees working from home are facing during the pandemic is “intolerable”.
With many of its members alerting their mental health to being at risk, Prospect called on the government to give employees a “legal right to disconnect at work.”
This would prevent superiors from “routinely sending emails or calling them” outside of established business hours.
Emails sent outside working hours can also be automatically deleted, which results in out-of-hours employees not thinking about constantly checking their email.
“While digital technology has been kept safe during the pandemic, working from home has become like sleeping in the office for millions of people, making it difficult to stop working completely,” says Andrew Backas, Deputy Secretary-General of Prospect.
The Office for National Statistics found that 35.9 per cent of UK workers had done at least part of their jobs from home over the past year, and that this group – with time saved in commuting – was spending on average about six hours of unpaid overtime each week. .
It is noteworthy that the “right to disconnect” has become a mandatory law in France four years ago, as companies are required to set agreed “specific hours” for “remote workers”.
Last month, Northern Ireland issued working rules under which employers are required to add “automated notes and messages that appear at the bottom of an email, to remind employees that they are not obligated to respond to emails sent outside their specified working hours”.
The union, which includes managers, civil servants, engineers and scientists, wants the UK government to put similar protections in the Employment Bill, which is expected to be published later this year.
“People’s exhaustion doesn’t work for workers or employers, so we have to give people enough time to stop working and get enough rest to get back to work later,” Claire says.
I rush to my laptop before breakfast.
A bank employee named Omar says that no one who knows them believes we can be as productive when working from home as working in offices, which are usually equipped with large screens and technology and interact with colleagues.
Omar found that working from home completely dominates an employee’s personal life.
“At home, you head to your computer before breakfast, but, when you work in the office, the journey starts with buying a cup of coffee and chatting with a colleague and then sitting down to your desk at 8:30 or 9 a.m.,” he says.
But companies and lawyers have raised doubts about whether the right to disconnect is applicable at a time when many employees demand a flexible working method (i.e. different working hours according to need and the arrangement of a person’s schedule).
It would be “extremely difficult” to make Prospect’s proposal work, says Peter Chase, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
“The big question is how do we create good ways of working that balance people’s personal and work lives,” he adds.
Respect the separation between work and personal life
The official work advice issued by the government across the UK at the moment is for people to continue to work from home where possible.
To keep people healthy, the Mental Health Foundation recommends that superiors stay in daily contact with employees. But she also advises respecting the boundaries between work and private life.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says: “We recognize that this year has been a very difficult year, and the pandemic has had an impact on mental health, so we wholeheartedly pledge to improve and support workers’ rights, which is why we will honor the Conservative Party’s commitment to consultation to make the pattern of work Flexible is the common automatic.
The government’s Flexible Task Force is studying how to create “hybrid work” – part-time, remote-work – the norm in the post-pandemic era.
This includes looking at the right to disconnect as well.