On the initiative of S&D MEP Alex Agius Saliba, the employment and social affairs committee today calls on the Commission to regulate the right to disconnect for all employees in the EU, in a vote on his report adopted today.
Speaking after the successful vote on his report, S&D MEP Alex Agius Saliba said:
“Digitisation brings many benefits and advantages for employees such as greater flexibility or less commuting. However, there are also pitfalls. The pressure to always be reachable, always available, is mounting. Working hours are extended and not necessarily fairly compensated. The boundaries between work and private life have become blurred. The human cost is high: from un-paid overtime, to exhaustion and burnout.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and we must up-date our rules to catch up with the new reality. During lock-down, one in three workers started working from home. For sure, telework has saved countless lives, but after months of teleworking, many workers are now suffering from negative side effects such as isolation, fatigue, depression, burn out, muscular or eye illnesses. Studies show that people who regularly work from home are twice as likely to work more than the maximum 48 hours per week as laid down in EU law. Working from home makes it particularly difficult to switch off.
“We want to make sure that digital tools are used as an asset benefitting employers and workers while their negative effects are mitigated. After work or while on holidays, workers must be able to switch off their phone or emails without fear of negative consequences. The right to disconnect is vital for mental and physical health. This is why we call on the Commission to propose an EU right to disconnect for all European workers.”
Agnes Jongerius, S&D spokesperson on employment and social rights, added:
“You know that feeling, when you get a work-related text message demanding your attention when you just started cooking. Or when your boss calls while you were in a conversation with a friend. One of the biggest challenges to workers’ rights today is digitalisation, which is turning our societies and economies upside down. The way we regulate digitalisation decides whether new jobs will be good jobs with fair pay and decent conditions. We have to up-date our rules to the new realities of the digital age. The job of workers’ parties and trade unions is to ensure that the technological progress brought by digitisation also brings social progress for the many. We cannot allow digital tools to be abused or undermine hard fought for workers’ rights. Online workers must be entitled to the same rights as offline workers: decent working conditions, clearly stipulated working hours and rest times, fair pay and, definitely, the right to disconnect.”
Note to the editor:
The right to disconnect allows workers to refrain from engaging in work-related tasks, activities and electronic communication, such as phone calls, emails and other messages, outside their working time, including during rest periods, official and annual holidays, maternity, paternity and parental leave, and other types of leave, without facing any adverse consequences.
The report still needs to be adopted by the full plenary of the European Parliament, scheduled for January 2021.