Is there a need for "a right to disconnect"?
In recent months, flexible working arrangements including a “right to disconnect” have been the focus of media attention and public debate. The issue is currently the subject of a public consultation run jointly between the Departments of Business Enterprise and Innovation and Justice and Equality, due to conclude on Friday 31 January 2020.
Ibec submits that before any policy initiatives are considered on the issue of a right disconnect, it is important for government departments to consider the legal framework on working time as it currently stands. As is evidenced from statistics from the Workplace Relations Commission on the enforcement of working time legislation, there exists a very effective right to disconnect under Irish law, enforceable through the established employment rights bodies. Before any additional measures are proposed, better communication of the existing framework, and the obligations it imposes, should be considered.
Ireland remains a small open economy. Many of our employers whether large multi-national or small indigenous business no longer operate on a strict 9 to 5 basis, but across different time zones and responsive to their customer needs. Any legislative intervention on working time as part of the policy response to this issue is likely to bring unhelpful rigidity to an increasingly flexible world of work. This flexibility is also highly prized by employees and often strongly supported by other government initiatives. Where concerns arise about excessive working hours or disproportionate reliance on digital devices arises Ibec recommends, in the first instance, a raising of awareness of existing legal remedies and the promotion of workplace culture that embraces a balanced and flexible approach to working time.
Head of Ibec Employment Law Services