Do We Need a ‘Right To Disconnect’?

Born out of necessity at the onset of the pandemic, homeworking has become commonplace for many workers across the country. Employers’ concerns about workers ‘slacking off’ when out of the office were soon proved wrong, and many firms are now pursuing a hybrid model moving forward due to the increased productivity of remote staff.

However, the move to homeworking has also blurred the boundaries of what is expected of workers. For most office staff, work is over when you leave the office. But for remote workers, it has become more difficult to ‘switch off’, with emails and calls still coming through once the working day has ended. This was reflected in the ONS Labour Market Survey, with 30% of homeworkers stating they had worked more hours from home than they would in the office.

The need for a healthy work-life balance has prompted many countries across the EU, including France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, to introduce variations of the so-called ‘Right to Disconnect’, giving workers protection from adverse treatment for failing to respond to emails or calls during non-working hours (and a right to be paid if they do). Elsewhere, some large German companies have taken the proactive approach of offering the Right to Disconnect despite there being no legal obligation to do so.

The concept is not without its critics, and there are certainly workers who enjoy the flexibility of a mid-morning dog walk or doing the afternoon school run, with the ability to make up for lost time in the evening. But for others, particularly for those with more demanding employers, the protection afforded by the Right to Disconnect would help in reducing the long days, burnout and stress exacerbated by the pandemic.

With a legislated Right to Disconnect unlikely in the near future, having this protection freely offered by employers may be an appealing incentive to attract and retain the best workers in the current candidate-driven market.


This article was supplied to TBOS by our preferred legal supplier SA Law, for more insights visit their website at

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