Should employees have the right to detach from work completely once their official working day is over by choosing not to engage in work-related communication? Or should there rather be flexible solutions reached in agreement between employers and employees?
A crystal clear matter
Well, according to a survey carried out by the Malta IT Law Association (MITLA) among the general public, there shouldn’t need to be much discussion about this and the matter should be crystal clear – 76% of respondents consider the right to disconnect a fundamental human right. But is it really?
The results of the survey were presented during a recent webinar on the right to disconnect that was organised by MITLA.
Earlier this year, the European Parliament gave the green light to a report on the right to disconnect – a proposal that was pushed by Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba.
Only 27% able to disconnect
While the announcement of the proposed EU directive was received with resistance from the local employers’ representatives, MITLA’s survey results bring out varying levels of friction and disagreement between employees and employers. In fact, the survey highlights the fact that only 27% of respondents said that they are able to disconnect from work outside of office hours.
The main causes for being unable to disconnect were client or customer demands, industry expectations and employer demands. A majority of 71.4% said they would feel comfortable exercising this right. Full survey results can be found here.
Make employees health & well-being a priority
So considering that the right to disconnect is seen to be a fundamental human right and once we all agree that employees’ health and wellbeing should be a priority, it’s the implementation side of things that is proving to be somewhat problematic at the moment.
In fact, MITLA has called for a wide-ranging public debate between all stakeholders, including employees, employers, trade unions and professionals. The following are some key points that emerged from the webinar that we feel are particularly pertinent to the debate:
- Maybe the right to be disconnect should be more of a guiding principle focusing on self-regulation and discussion rather than a fundamental human right
- The right to disconnect should not be a one size fits all solution and we cannot set rules for all industries and situations
- The ability to disconnect lies with the employee, not the employer – it must be ensured that employees who want to disconnect are not penalised
- The physical and digital world mirror each other, and just as employees are not expected to be at their place of employment 24/7, neither can they be expected to be digitally connected 24/7
Those who missed the webinar can watch it online.