In the realm of employment law, if there’s a trend currently making waves, it’s the sometimes controversial ‘right to disconnect’.

Over the past few years, countries like Belgium, France and Spain have implemented rules that allow employees the right to disconnect from work and work-related technology when outside of working hours.

This is in a bid to create a better relationship between work and personal time, but does it work?

We might soon find out as even the UK’s Labour Party has mentioned that they would be open to introducing a similar right over here, drawing inspiration from successful strategies in other nations.

This concept is also supported by the public as an Ipsos poll from last year revealed that 60% of adults support a law which gives employees the right to ignore work-related communication outside of their official working or on-call hours, with only 11% opposed.

With 80% of those earning over £55,000 annually reporting that they check and respond to work messages beyond their regular hours, the expectation to work outside of hours is a lot more normalised than one may have previously thought.

But there are those who think that the right to disconnect would be taken too far. For example, the law in Portugal outright bans employers from contacting employees after hours.

Some argue that this policy fails to look at the different ways that modern workplaces communicate, or remote workers and differing time zones.

Would it be easier to let employers hash out more appropriate communication times depending on their business model? After all, employees are prioritising a work-life balance like never before, and it’s easy to see why these policies are appealing. 

The other key question is, how should such rules be implemented? Nothing official has been put in place in the UK yet. Employees may include a disclaimer in their emails to remind professionals to contact them during work hours but as reported in the FT Adviser, Portuguese law firm, PBBR explains that ‘nothing has really changed’ due to the law.

So, as there hasn’t been a noticeable change in culture due to these laws, can we claim that they work?

Maybe not, but you can’t deny that it is an appealing option for those searching for a work-life balance and would be a great incentive to any workplace looking for Gen Z employees.

While these rights have opened up the dialogue surrounding communication and consideration of employees’ time outside of working hours, they haven’t yet revolutionised work practices.

With a more comprehensive view into how it would work for each business, it could be able to be a UK practice which allows employees more time to themselves and less time spent on unpaid work.

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