Ireland considers providing workers ‘right to disconnect’ from their workplace News
Ireland considers providing workers ‘right to disconnect’ from their workplace

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) of the Republic of Ireland Sunday initiated a public consultation on a code of practice to protect employees by giving them the right to disconnect from their work outside of regular working hours.

The consultation for an updated code of practice comes as a response to the dramatic change in work environments that many Irish employees have felt since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to set out guidance for both employees and employers on how to best approach employee disengagement from their work outside of working hours. Currently, Ireland’s workforce is protected by the Organization of Working Time Act of 1997, limiting employers from allowing employees to work for more than an average of 48 hours a week. Still, it does not provide any right to “disconnect” from their workplace. With more employees working virtually, it is harder for many to disconnect from their work when their primary instrument of communication with their workplace is sitting in their pocket or on their desk at home.

Leo Varadkar, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment has been calling for this problem to be addressed since earlier this year. As Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Varadkar has the authority from Section 20(2) of the Workplace Relations Act of 2015 to direct the Commission to prepare and submit a code of practice to guide employers and employees on recommended practices. In a statement Friday, Varadkar said:

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.

Although it is unclear to what extent the new code of practice will directly affect Irish employees or employers, the code will provide more than guidance to employers and employees and will be admissible as evidence in court proceedings. Once the WRC gathers information from the public consultation, the code of practice will be submitted for approval by Varadkar.

The WRC’s public consultation for the Code of Practice on the “Right to Disconnect” is open for submissions until January 22, 2021.

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