European Parliament approves Agius Saliba ‘right to disconnect’ report

‘Right to disconnect’ report presented by MEP Alex Agius Saliba approved by European Parliament 

The European Parliament has approved a report calling for the right to digitally disconnect. 

The report was compiled by Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba.

The right to switch off, sometimes called the ‘right to disconnect’, refers to a worker’s right to be able to disconnect from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails or other messages, during non-work hours.

This concept has developed as a result of advancements in communication technologies and its impact on people’s daily lives. 

The widespread use of smart phones and other digital devices means that always being ‘on call’ has become a reality in many workplaces, as continuous remote access can create pressure for employees to be constantly accessible. The expectation that workers are available at almost any time for online or mobile communication is now considered to be potentially hazardous to workers’ health.

Speaking after the vote, Agius Saliba said that while digitisation brings about many benefits, the pressure to be always reachable and available is mounting. 

“Working hours are extended and not necessarily fairly compensated. The boundaries between work and private life have become blurred. The human cost is high: from un-paid over time, to exhaustion and burnout,” he said. 

He also said that practices of being obliged to answer for work during free-time must stop. 

“We all know the feeling of constant pressure to check in the evening, during the weekend, and in our free time, for work-related emails and messages, worried that our employer will demand our immediate attention.”

The Labour MEP said that the intention of the report is to ensure that digital tools are used as an asset benefitting employers and workers alike, while their negative effects are mitigated.

He asserted that after work or while on holiday, employees must be able to switch off their phone or emails without fear of negative consequences.

The next step is now for the report to be adopted by the full Plenary of the European Parliament.

Government has also expressed its intention in adopting similar legislation in the country, with Minister Carmelo Abela saying he expects a legislative framework on remote working to be proposed in the near future.

These legal regulations will introduce more flexibility for employers and workers themselves while also benefiting our country’s economic competitiveness,” Abela told a meeting of the General Workers’ Union (GWU). 

READ ALSO: Labour MEP advances right to disconnect in fight against ‘always on’ work culture

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