A recent report from Autonomy thinktank claims that UK workers are working overtime and calls for a new law for the right to disconnect.
Covid-19 shifted office work to working from home for many of us, and from our personal experience that change had a large impact on life. According to the report, working from home has caused unpaid overtime work to increase, which has resulted in negative health and mental impacts.
The report also found that women are at greater risk of distress and are being affected by a rise in mental health problems due to the increased workloads. A past study shows that 43% of women are more likely to overwork, and the increase has resulted in a 49% rise in mental distress when compared with 2017-19.
Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, said: “Alongside the right to flexible working, there must be the right to disconnect. It is only fair that workers are able to establish healthy boundaries, switching off and disconnecting from work outside of working hours. “
The reports are calling for an update to the Employment Rights Act 1996 to ensure workers have the right to completely disconnect from all work communications outside working hours and ultimately to bring employment investigations for any breach of that.
The French “Right to Disconnect”
In 2016, the French government adopted a labour law that included a right to disconnect that referred to employers’ obligations to not invade their employees’ personal lives with emails or calls after work hours.
The law doesn’t specify how and what procedures employers should use to make sure their employees are disconnecting, but companies with more than 50 employees are obliged to set out the hours when staff are not required to answer emails.
In April, a research by Prospect Union revealed that 32% of home workers across the UK are finding it hard to fully disconnect from work, 66% remote workers voted in favour of a right to disconnect law and 35% of home workers said their work-related mental health has got worse.
The right to disconnect could be a bit tough to get used to but in recent years we have seen many other countries implementing it in their legislation to protect workers and avoid a mental health crisis.
Over the last few years, employees were able to adapt to remote and flexible work to help keep everyone safe from the pandemic. We think it is only fair that we now consider establishing boundaries and prioritise employees’ mental health.
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