Monday, August 15, 2022

Workers’ Call For Right To Disconnect Intensifies Amid Pandemic

Workers’ Call For Right To Disconnect Intensifies Amid Pandemic

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Workers in private and public sectors are appealing to employers to respect their right to disconnect from work-related phone calls, chats, texts, and e-mails beyond their working hours.

“Heightened by a rigorous flexible work arrangements in coping with the COVID-19  pandemic, there’s a growing clamor among working people in government and in private enterprises urging  employers to respect their right to disconnect from work-connected communications after working hours without being punished for it, ” said Gerard Seno, National Executive Vice President of the country’s largest group of unions the Associated Labor Unions (ALU).

“Employees who chose to disconnect after work hours should not be treated as a misconduct or a disobedience. It should not be a basis for demotion, disciplinary action or termination,” said Seno.

According to global union federation the United Network International (UNI), a skills and service sectors union representing 20 million workers from 150 countries worldwide, the right to disconnect refers to the right of workers to disconnect from their work duties and to not receive or answer any work-related electronic mails, calls, or messages outside of normal working hours.

The UNI said workers being constantly connected to their jobs has important negative effects that can weigh on their relationships and their mental health. If left unchecked, constant connection can lead to anxiety, burnout and depression, the group said.

“The respect to right to disconnect extends to the respect to workers’ periods of rest, leave and holidays as well as to their personal and family privacy,” said Seno.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) have yet to issue guidelines to serve as a reference guide for workers and employers in private companies, and for heads of government agencies and local government unit chief executives including government-owned and controlled corporations.

Under legislative deliberation is a proposed right to disconnect bill currently pending at the House of Representatives’ committee level.

The right to disconnect as a legal right emerged in France following a Supreme Court ruling in 2001 and upheld in 2004 stating that “the employee is under no obligation either to accept working at home or to bring there his files and working tools and employee cannot be reprimanded for being unreachable outside working hours.”

The decisions were adapted in 2016 reform of French labor code which enabled employees to fully exercise their right to disconnect. The law particularly encourage employers to introduce schemes and policies that regulates the use of digital tools with a view to ensure compliance with regulations governing rest and leave periods, privacy and family life of workers.

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