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Calls Grow for ‘Right to Disconnect’ As Remote Working Set to Stay

Ross Kelly

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Right to Disconnect

Remote workers across the country are finding it hard to switch off, with many feeling like they’re “sleeping at the office”.

A trade union has called for the inclusion of a ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy in the forthcoming Employment Bill.

Prospect union, which represents 150,000 members across the country, has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urging him to include the proposals in a consultation ahead of the bill.

According to Prospect, polling conducted by Opinium found that two-thirds of home workers in the country back the policy, which could force companies to agree rules on when staff can be contacted for work purposes.

Since the onset of the pandemic, many countries have adopted similar policies to what the union is proposing.

Earlier this month, new rules on work-life balance were introduced in the Republic of Ireland while the European Parliament voiced its support of similar policies in January.

The Canadian Government also recently established a Right to Disconnect Advisory Committee. Made up from business leaders and unions, the committee aims to explore and recommend new rules on remote working policies and ‘digital switch-off’.

In Britain, research from Prospect revealed that public support for a similar approach was significant across all age groups, as well as among voters across the political spectrum.

More than half (53%) of Conservative voters polled said they supported the idea, while just 22% were opposed to the right to disconnect policy. Similarly, 65% of Labour voters also agreed with the introduction of a right to disconnect policy.

Overall, nearly two-thirds (59%) of workers polled voiced support for the proposals, with 17% rejecting the idea.

Prospect research director, Andrew Pakes, said the introduction of remote working policies at many organisations has left millions struggling to switch off and establish a clear work-life divide, and this is leading to poorer mental health conditions.

“People’s experience of working from home during the pandemic has varied wildly depending on their jobs, their home circumstances, and crucially the behaviour of their employees,” he said.

“It is clear that for millions of us, working from home has felt more like sleeping in the office.”

Research conducted by Prospect highlighted the downsides of prolonged remote working, with 35% of remote workers revealing that their work-related mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic.

Nearly half (42%) of these said this is partly due to an inability to switch off from work.

As well as being unable to switch off from work, 30% of remote workers said they have worked more unpaid hours compared to before the pandemic. Just under one-fifth (18%) of survey respondents said they now work at least four additional unpaid hours each week.

Prospect warned the figures reveal a ‘dark side’ to remote working and said legislative changes are needed if working conditions are to improve post-pandemic.

“Remote working is here to stay, but it can be much better than it has been in recent months,” Pakes said.

“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,” he added.


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As lockdown measures are eased across the country, many organisations have signalled their intention to continue fully remote working practices or implement a ‘hybrid’ policy.

Research published by recruitment consultancy, Robert Half, this week revealed that business leaders across the country are exploring the advantages of a hybrid working approach.

Nearly half of senior managers polled by Robert Half said they expect to see the development of a hybrid remote and in-office workforce over the next year. Up to 34% also said they anticipate things to remain fully remote.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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