EMPLOYEE’S RIGHT TO DISCONNECT
In April 2021 the Workplace Relations Commission introduced a new Code of Practice in Ireland relating to the employee’s right to disconnect.
What is the Purpose of the Code?
The Code came about as more and more employees are working remotely and working flexible hours which has caused a blurring of the lines between work and leisure time. The code highlights various rights and obligations under existing legislation, introduces new sample policies and tries to help both employers and employees to navigate this area.
What is the Right to Disconnect?
The Code is mainly concerned with the right of an employee to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours (to include working through lunch / break times or answering emails long after their working day is over), the right to not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours and the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours.)
What are my rights as an Employee? (What are my obligations as an Employer?)
Your employer must:
- Provide detailed information to employees on their working time – you should receive a written statement outlining your core terms within 5 days of commencing your employment.
- Ensure that employees take rest periods in accordance with legislation. Legislation provides for annual leave, specified rest times during the working day and also that employees cannot be permitted to work for more than 48 hours on average in a working week except in specified limited circumstances.
- Ensure a safe workplace.
- Not penalise you for acting in compliance with any relevant provision or performing any duty or exercising any right under legislation.
What are my obligations an Employee?
- Ensuring that you manage your own working time and ensuring to take reasonable care to protect your own safety, health and welfare and the health and safety of your colleagues.
- Cooperating fully with any appropriate measures taken by an employer to record working time including when working remotely.
- Being mindful of your colleagues’ and all other people’s (e.g. Client / Customer) right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).
- Notifying your employer in writing of any statutory rest period or break to which you were entitled to and were not able to avail of on a particular occasion and the reason for not availing of such rest period or break.
- Being conscious of your work pattern and aware of your work-related wellbeing and taking remedial action if necessary.
Right to Disconnect Policy
The Code provides a useful Right to Disconnect policy template which can be adapted by employers to suit their own workplaces and take into account their standard employment contract terms etc. The Code helpfully also outlines some standard clauses and wording in relation to matters such as employee wellbeing, meetings, out of office, communication etc.
What can I do if I feel that my right to disconnect is being infringed?
- Ask to see the company policy on The Right to Disconnect. The policy should outline the procedure for raising concerns in this regard and should also contain other useful information.The policy might, for example, have an email out of office / footer policy which you could incorporate in your emails which would advise your colleagues of your regular hours of work.
- Speak to your HR manager / other designated person under the policy
- Engage your company’s standard grievance procedure
- If the matter has not been resolved successfully using the above you can contact your solicitor with a view to referring the matter to the Workplace Relations Commission under the relevant legislative provision
If you require further information regarding The Right to Disconnect or on any other legal matter, please contact Sinéad Harrington at Joynt & Crawford LLP, Solicitors, 8 Anglesea Street, Dublin 2 (telephone 01-6770re 335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org).