Unplugging After Work – Why the Right to Disconnect is Needed in the UK

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Photo Credits - Sten Ritterfeld via Unsplash

Research by Ipsos found that 6 in 10 UK adults would agree to legislation that will give workers a right to disconnect. This comes as a reaction to the prevalence of remote working, which has exacerbated the normalisation of doing work outside of working hours. Other countries, such as the Philippines and the EU, have introduced similar measures, and many are expecting the UK to follow.

Concerns regarding mental health and well-being have arisen due to the lack of clear boundaries between work and leisure for many workers. Having regulations in place to define this would benefit many workers, especially those who work remotely.

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What is the Right to Disconnect?

The right to disconnect is understood as the principle that believes workers should not engage in any work-related duties outside of working hours. Having this right allows employees to disconnect their devices and removes the pressure to sacrifice their leisure time for work. Additionally, this means the elimination of punishments for choosing not to do work outside of working hours.

The pandemic has made working from home a common working style. As a result, many have lost the precise boundary between home and work that they previously had from going to the office to work.

As noted by Lancaster University, the introduction of the right to disconnect in the UK would benefit nearly all working individuals. The focus and prioritisation of work-life balance that has been on the agenda of many organisations across the nation would be further supported with the introduction of the right to disconnect.

Having the right to disconnect is also aligned with guidelines for healthy and safe teleworking that have been published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Within their guidelines, they have provided technical information for employers and employees to follow to ensure health, safety and well-being at work.

6 in 10 Support the Right to Disconnect

The findings of the Ipsos research have provided insights into the attitudes of UK adults on the right to disconnect. As mentioned before, 6 in 10 would support legislation that will define the right to disconnect.

The research has also found that 67% of working adults in the UK engage with work-related communications outside of working hours. Regarding checking and responding outside of working hours, 43% check work-related tasks and 40% respond to them – with 34% proactively sending work communications.

Further, they also found that higher earners are more likely to engage with work-related communications outside of working hours – with 82% of people earning £55,000 or over in a year admitting doing this compared to 65% of people who earn less than that amount.

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However, with introducing the right to disconnect comes the concern of restricting flexible working hours which was also introduced with the prevalence of remote working. Some fear that their current flexibility may be limited in some way if the right to disconnect gets implemented.

Going forward, it is recommended that employers understand what would be best for their employees. Considering their current working patterns and understanding what would accommodate for them to work at their best would be the ideal step to take. For some, this would mean retaining flexibility and for others, it may be allowing them to completely disconnect during their leisure and rest time.

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