Workers in the UK are calling on government leaders to introduce legislation that would prohibit their bosses from forcing staff to work outside of official hours. The “right to disconnect” – which is gaining ground in the age of teleworking – aims to protect workers from being penalised if they opt to ignore calls from their managers after their shift ends.
Prospect, a union advocating for STEM workers, is urging UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to take action. The union wants the government to add the right to disconnect as a provision in the employment bill. Remote working and work-from-home arrangements have gained traction due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it has also resulted in an ‘always-on’ work culture, leaving little space for a proper work-life balance. This issue appears to be taking a toll on workers.
“Working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office,” said Andrew Pakes, the union’s research director, who was quoted in The Guardian. “Including a right to disconnect in the employment bill would be a big step in redrawing the blurred boundary between home and work and would show that the government is serious about tackling the dark side of remote working.”
The government is reportedly aiming to “deliver the largest upgrade to workers’ rights in a generation, including measures that will help people to balance work with their personal lives,” according to a representative of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
In the UK, two in three telecommuters and 59 percent of workers overall support the proposal, according to a survey from Opinium. Respondents cited, in particular, the negative impacts of WFH, including a supposed decline in their mental health (35 percent) and an increase in their unpaid work (30 percent).