Close-up view of a finger about to hit the off button on a laptop.
Image: © Forgem/Stock.Adobe.com

Right to disconnect: New code to help Irish workers ‘strike a better balance’

18 Dec 2020

As remote working looks set to continue, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says it’s vitally important that ‘an appropriate work-life balance is struck’.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD, has welcomed a public consultation on a new code of practice that will give employees in Ireland the right to disconnect.

“It’s really important that we get this right so that employees can switch off from work properly,” he said.

Click here for top employers hiring right now.

Earlier this year, Varadkar tasked Ireland’s Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) with designing a code of practice on an employee’s right to disconnect from work. The aim of this would be to ensure that employers and employees are aware of their requirements and entitlements, and understand how these apply – especially in a remote working scenario.

“We want remote working to become a bigger part of life after Covid. If done right, the benefits will be huge,” Varadkar said. “However, it is vitally important that the existing rights and entitlements that employees enjoy are maintained and that an appropriate work-life balance is struck.

“Working from home has become the norm for many this past year and although technology has meant that we have been able to stay connected in a way that wasn’t possible years ago, it also has its downsides. This new code will help all workers strike a better balance between home and work life.”

The WRC is now undertaking a public consultation to inform the drafting of the code, which will set out guidance for employees and employers on how to approach employee disengagement outside normal working hours. Once approved by the minister, this code would be admissible in evidence in proceedings before a court.

The commission is inviting submissions from the public on this topic until 22 January.

A legal right to disconnect from work could also be introduced under EU law. Earlier this month, MEPs called on the European Commission to propose an EU directive on the matter.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and we must update our rules to catch up with the new reality,” said Malta MEP Alex Agius Saliba.

“After months of teleworking, many workers are now suffering from negative side effects such as isolation, fatigue, depression, burnout, muscular or eye illnesses. The pressure to always be reachable, always available, is mounting.”

The right to ignore calls or emails outside of working hours came under the spotlight in Ireland in 2018, when a Kepak subsidiary was ordered by the Labour Court to pay €7,500 to one of its executives who said she experienced burnout after working close to 60 hours a week and handling emails after midnight.

Sarah Harford
By Sarah Harford

Sarah Harford joined Silicon Republic as sub-editor in July 2019, coming from a background in business and tech journalism. When she’s not stressing out about spelling and grammar, she’s usually listening to Abba and arguing about the best way to make tea.

Loading now, one moment please! Loading