Background – On the 1st of April 2021, the Táinste and Minister for Employment signed the Code of Practice for employers and employees of the right to disconnect.
The three key elements contained in the Code are (a) the right of an employee to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours; (b) the right to not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours and (c) the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (eg. by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).
An employer’s failure to adhere to the principles of the Code will not be an offence in and of itself, but the Code will be admissible in evidence, in any employment case before the Workplace Relations Commission or a Court.
Employers Obligations set out in the Code
- Provide detailed information to employees on working time and inform employees of what their normal working hours are reasonably expected to be – Ensure existing contracts accurately reflect obligations in relation to working time.
- Ensure employees take rest periods – Where an employee’s work is based on a set timetable/roster, set breaks should be included (i.e 15 minutes after 4.5 hours, 30 minutes after 6 hours). Where working time is more flexible, specify an employee’s entitlements in relation to rest breaks in a Right to Disconnect Policy. Notify the employee that he/she is expected to take breaks and identify a contact person in the event that the employee experiences issues.
- Ensure the workplace is safe, having particular regard for an employer’s obligation under Section 8(2)(b) of the Safety Health and Welfare Act, i.e to manage work activities in order to prevent conduct/behaviour that poses a risk to employee safety, health or welfare at work – Adhere to working time requirements.
- Implement a Right to Disconnect Policy. Require that an employee notifies the employer of any potential hazards in relation to disconnecting/working time.
- Not to penalise an employee for complying with the provisions of the Safety Health and Welfare Act, or exercising a right or performing a duty under that Act – Ensure managers, are made aware of an employee’s working time entitlements and the right to disconnect. Clearly outline parameters for communications outside of working time in the Right to Disconnect Policy.
In addition to employer’s obligations, the Code also refers to certain existing employee obligations such as managing their own working time, taking reasonable care to ensure their safety at work, cooperating with mechanisms to record working time and considering others rights to disconnect by not routinely emailing/calling outside normal working hours.