Leo Varadkar introduces new legislation for the “Right to Disconnect.”

Workers welcome the new Code of Practice for the Right to Disconnect for a better work-life balance announced by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar.

The Right to Disconnect gives employees the right to switch off from work outside of normal working hours.

This includes the rights to not respond immediately to emails, telephone calls or other messages, not to have to routinely perform work outside normal working hours, not to be penalised for refusing to attend work matters outside of working hours and a duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect.

Laura Cullen, who works in a care home said, “I think this is a step in the right direction. I have definitely felt over the years the strain of being contacted outside of working hours.

I would come off of three 12-hour night shifts in a row and my supervisors would be calling me looking to cover a shift for the following day while I was trying to get a few hours in before I had to head back to work.”

Many workers feel under pressure to answer work phone calls and emails out of fear they will be looked less favourably upon by their superiors if they do not.

Cullen said, “I definitely felt that on the days I wasn’t able to answer their calls I was given the cold shoulder the next time I was at work. 

I hope that this new legislation will change this and make managers realise that when their employees get home their priorities can shift.”

The new code of practice is a part of the Tánaiste’s commitment to creating a more flexible family-friendly work arrangement.

Ciara Byrne, who has been working from home since the beginning of the pandemic said, “I really think this will improve people’s work-life balance as it is not being given enough attention in a world where overworking is glamorised.”

“You almost feel guilty for not working extra as now you have no reason not to. At the start, it was great having extra time to do your work, but I think it leads to burnout eventually. This legislation is great as people can stop feeling guilty for turning off their laptops at 5pm.”

The Tánaiste said in a press release that the pandemic “offers an opportunity to make permanent changes for the better, whether that’s working more from home, having more time with the family, or more flexible working hours.”

The Code was developed by the Workplace Relations Commission, following a request by the Tánaiste in November 2020, underpinning the commitment made in the Programme for Government to facilitate and support remote working.

Michelle Cullen.