Labour MEP says right to disconnect should cover all workers using digital tools

Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba presents Right To Disconnect rules to employment committee MEPs

A draft law proposed by Labour MEP Alex Agius Saiba has presented specific recommendations on critical elements for a future Directive on the Right to Disconnect.

Agius Saliba said the COVID-19 had led to an increase in the number of employees who are teleworking and and using digital tools.

“Digitalization has brought many advantages to employers and workers, such as flexibility of working arrangements, the potential to improve work-life balance and reducing commuting times.

“At the same time, the greater use of digital tools has resulted in an ‘always connected’ culture, with some potential disadvantages, such as constant availability and long working hours, blurring the boundaries between private and working life and affecting workers’ fundamental rights, fair working conditions and health and safety at work.”

Agius Saliba is proposing EU-wide safeguards for all workers using digital tools in their work. “I hope we can really make a difference in the lives of millions of workers throughout the EU.”

In a debate with the shadow rapporteurs inside the EU’s employment and social affairs committee, many issues were discussed.

On the one hand, the right to disconnect should be a fundamental right for all workers, said Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovsky (EPP), but there were differences and disparities between various sectors. “The EU should promote the right to disconnect and urge national authorities to introduce measures to address the issue – but I am not fully convinced that this should be done by a new legal instrument.”

Estonian MEP Yana Toom (Renew) said she would table amendments on the type of jobs that should be given this right. “Before we ensure the right to disconnect, we have to ensure the right to properly connect. Can we ask someone to be connected without providing proper equipment or without paying for faster internet?”

Working hours have also become unpredictable and longer than ever before, which has a profound impact on our physical and mental health, Belgian MEP Petra De Sutter (Greens) said. She suggested adding figures to the report, for example from the European Working Conditions Survey.

Portuguese MEP José Gusmão (GUE), said social partners should be fully involved in the type of teleworking to be used, and the way that it is to be done has to be defined by collective bargaining. “The right to disconnect should be guaranteed for all workers and that the issue goes hand-in-hand with the gig economy.”

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