The right to disconnect

One thing the pandemic has shown us is that remote working works well for a lot of us.

There are many advantages after all… no more dreaded commute, money saved on lunches and lattes, as well as the benefit of being able to bring the washing in when it starts to rain. We do live in the North West!

But having that clear work/home divide is something we need to be even more conscious of when remote working. Before the pandemic struck there was already a push for ‘the right to disconnect’.

It’s all too easy when your laptop is on the kitchen table to just answer that email that comes in at 7pm on a Friday night, or ‘get a head start on the week’ on a Saturday morning. But where do we draw the line?

Workplaces are increasingly focusing on protecting employees’ physical and mental health and part of that is encouraging a good work/life balance.

There are also Working Time Regulations to consider. If employees are regularly working weekends and out of hours, they may be working more than 48 hours per week without you realising – which could be unlawful unless they have signed an opt out.

Every email received after hours presents workers with a dilemma: respond now or watch the emails mount up.

There are practical tips that can help reduce the chance of this dilemma occurring - using the time delay function on sending emails could help, together with updating your email/IT policy to ask employees to give consideration to whether they need to send correspondence out of hours.

Volkswagen, Orange and Lidl are some of the companies that have taken steps to implement the ‘right to disconnect’ in their organisations.

However, there is research that suggests that banning staff from accessing their work emails out of hours could cause more harm than good, so employers need to make their own decisions about the risks either way.

At CG we advise many businesses on all aspects of employment law, so with Prospect union pushing for government legislation to protect the ‘the right to disconnect’, what steps are you taking to promote employees’ mental health and support employees to switch off?

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