A new Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect (the "Code") has been published to provide practical guidance for employers and employees to agree working arrangements, appropriate to their business, that maintain clear boundaries between work and leisure.
The three key changes are:
a) The right of an employee to avoid routinely performing work outside normal working hours;
b) The right to protection from penalisation for refusing to work outside of normal working hours; and
c) The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g., by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).
While this new code is not a piece of legislation (i.e no legal penalties are imposed if there is a breach of the regulation), the code may be used in proceedings in the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court and the Courts as evidence of the appropriate standard of behaviour in relation to its subject matter. The Code does not impose universally applicable working hours. Existing law on maximum weekly working hours, the statutory rights to rest breaks, daily and weekly breaks are unaffected by the Code. The Code specifically acknowledges the existing legal position which is that both employers and employees have a responsibility to manage work patterns safely and to take responsibility for ensuring that systems of work are safe. The primary responsibility, however, rests with the employer.
Employers should carry out an assessment of suitable arrangements which considers:
a) The need to work across time zones;
b) The tone of communications – i.e., the repeated use of the word "urgent";
c) Expectations (not instructions) regarding disconnection during annual leave and outside of working hours; and
d) Expectations regarding response times where businesses operate across different time zones.
It is recommended that employers should consider assigning responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the policy to a management committee or to the HR team.