WRC Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Disconnect
From 1 April 2021, all employees have an official right to disconnect from work after the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD, brought in the Workplace Relations Commission’s Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Disconnect.
The purpose of the Code is to provide practical guidance and best practice to employers, employees and their representatives in relation to the Right to Disconnect.
The Right to Disconnect promotes a better work-life balance giving all employees the right to switch off, disconnect from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails, telephone calls or other messages, outside of their normal working hours.
Normal working hours are those as agreed in an employee’s terms and conditions of employment, as governed by the employee’s contract of employment and/or applicable collective agreement and/or any applicable Sectoral Employment or Employment Regulation Order in force.
The Code applies to all types of employment, whether employees are working remotely, in a fixed location, at home or are mobile. Due to Covid-19 restrictions many employees are working from home and they may find it difficult to switch off or may feel obliged to be online outside their normal work hours.
There are three rights enshrined in the Code of Practice:
- The right of an employee to not have to routinely perform work outside their normal working hours.
- The right not to be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours.
- The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect.
While failure to follow the Code is not an offence in itself, section 20(9) of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 provides that in any proceedings before a Court, the Labour Court or the WRC, a Code of Practice shall be admissible in evidence and any provision of the Code which appears to the Court, body or officer concerned to be relevant to any question arising in the proceedings shall be taken into account in determining that question.
Both employers and employees have obligations under the Code of Practice.
The Code recommends that employers proactively engage with their employees to develop a Right to Disconnect Policy for their workplace which takes account of its own particular business and employee needs. The Code recognises that occasionally legitimate reasons arise when it is necessary to contact staff outside of normal working hours; the policy should reflect this. The right to disconnect policy should address the issue of working across global time zones if this is relevant to the company. It should recognise that working across different time zones and international travel may result in colleagues connecting at different times outside of normal working hours to complete their objectives.
Employees need to be mindful of their colleagues’ right to disconnect, and also their customers’ and clients’ right. Employees are obliged to cooperate with any appropriate mechanism utilised by an employer to record working time including when working remotely. The employee needs to notify the employer in writing of any statutory rest period or break to which they are entitled to and were not able to avail of on a particular occasion and the reason for not availing of such rest period or break. The employee needs to be conscious of their work pattern and aware of their work-related wellbeing and take remedial action if necessary.
The Code complements and supports employers’ and employees’ existing rights and obligations under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 and the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 – 2014, all of which protects the employees from working long hours.
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Workplace Relations Commission