EU considers new rules on remote working and the right to disconnect

EU considers new rules on remote working and the right to disconnect

European trade unions and employers’ organisations are being consulted on the possibility of new EU rules on remote working and the ‘right to disconnect’.

The first-stage consultation of European social partners launched by the European Commission this week follows a vote by MEPs in 2021 which called for workers to be protected from ‘always-on’ work cultures.

A process of negotiations between European trade unions and employers’ organisations took place in 2022 but collapsed last year, renewing calls for the Commission to take the lead.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the Commission’s executive vice-president for an Economy that Works for People, said: “Thanks to digital technologies, many jobs can now be performed remotely.

“The overall balance is positive, with 60 per cent of workers preferring to work from home for at least part of their week. Workers appreciate the flexibility and autonomy of telework, while companies gain from higher productivity and staff retention.

“We are now consulting social partners on the opportunities and risks linked to telework. We want to make sure that EU rules promote their autonomy and do not stand in the way of companies and workers who agree to teleworking.

“We are also seeking their views on whether specific risks require EU action. This includes the risks to workers’ health from an ‘always on call’ culture and the related call from the European Parliament to ensure the right to disconnect.”

Nicolas Schmit, commissioner for jobs and social rights, added: “Teleworking during the Covid-19 pandemic was a necessity and is now an enduring aspect of modern work life. As we adapt to this change, it’s important to recognise and tackle its profound social implications.

“The Commission remains committed to respond to the European Parliament’s resolution with legislative proposals, as stated in the political guidelines. Following the inconclusive negotiations between social partners, the Commission invites the social partners to express their views on the next steps.

“A sound policy for teleworking and a right to disconnect are vital for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and for protecting the mental and physical well-being of workers.”

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