Last Thursday, the European Parliament approved the Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba’s resolution of the ‘Right of Disconnect’. A total of 472 MEPs from 681 voted in favour of this proposal.
The Right to Disconnect refers to legal provisions allowing workers to not answer work-related emails or phone calls during their free time. This concept began in France in early 2000s, after the local Supreme Court ruled that a worker not answering his work phone after he clocked off “cannot be considered as misconduct.”
From the beginning of the pandemic, there have been many changes in the work environment. Several employees have been working from the comfort of their homes. However, this comes with added pressure for workers “to always be reachable, to always be available at all times. Creating digital obesity that can intensify work and extend working hours with a detrimental effect on workers’ fundamental rights” Agius Saliba stated in his speech.
As a result, many workers have been feeling mentally and physically exhausted. Some workers have been working more than 48 hours leading to eye soreness, muscular pain, burnouts and depression. This is taking a toll on their health. He concludes by saying that there needs to be a balance between work and private life.
In a press conference, two days after the vote, Agius Saliba said that this has led to a major accomplishment for European workers’ rights. He continued to urge the European Commission to legislate the Right to Disconnect to make it a reality, as it has a strong mandate to act on this directive, which after all is a fundamental right for every worker.