The EU Parliament has increased its efforts to protect employees’ “fundamental right” to disconnect from work and not to be reachable outside working hours.
According to the Parliament, digital tools have increased efficiency and flexibility for employers and employees, but have also created a constantly on-call culture, with employees being easily reachable anytime and anywhere – including outside working hours.
“Technology has made teleworking possible, while the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns have made it widespread,” the Parliament said in a statement.
“Although teleworking has saved jobs and enabled many businesses to survive the corona crisis, it has also blurred the distinction between work and private life. Many people are having to work outside their regular working hours, worsening their work-life balance.”
In a legislative initiative that passed with 472 votes in favour, 126 against and 83 abstentions, MEPs called on the Commission to propose a law that would establish minimum requirements for remote working and clarify working conditions, hours and rest periods.
This is currently proposed to be a maximum 48 working hours per week, a minimum 11 consecutive hours of daily rest, and at least four weeks paid annual leave per year.
Employers would be required to ensure that workers are not be subjected to discrimination, criticism, dismissal, or other adverse actions.
Remote professional learning and training activities would also need to be counted as work activity and must not take place during overtime or days off without adequate compensation.
“We cannot abandon millions of European workers who are exhausted by the pressure to be always ‘on’ and overly long working hours. Now is the moment to stand by their side and give them what they deserve: the right to disconnect,” rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, MT) said after the vote.
“This is vital for our mental and physical health. It is time to update worker’s rights so that they correspond to the new realities of the digital age.”
Over 300 million people globally suffer from depression and work-related mental disorders, and Parliament says the push for constant connectivity is contributing to these health issues.
“Rest is essential for people’s wellbeing and constant connectivity to work has consequences on health. Sitting too long in front of the screen and working too much reduces concentration, causes cognitive and emotional overload and can lead to headaches, eye strain, fatigue, sleep deprivation, anxiety or burnout.”
“In addition, a static posture and repetitive movements can cause muscle strain and musculoskeletal disorders, especially in working environments that don’t meet ergonomic standards.”
37 per cent of EU workers started working from home during the lockdown, and 27 per cent of those who work from home work outside regular work hours.
Learn more about myosh
Book a 15 minute online demo today