Holidays are coming for many and the increasing use of digital technologies has transformed traditional work models and created a culture of always connected, especially since the pandemic has fostered teleworking to unimaginable levels.
Faced with this scenario, voices have arisen calling for the protection of the fundamental rights of workers , fair working conditions in which the aspect related to the health and safety of workers takes on a new dimension, in particular what has to do with with the work schedule.
“Spain has been a pioneer in the regulation of teleworking. First with the approval of the LOPD, where its article 88 establishes the obligation for every company to draw up an internal policy that regulates the digital disconnection of its employees; then the publication of law 28 / 2020, regulating teleworking, and -more recently- the banking collective agreement, with the express recognition of a series of digital rights, which include, expressly, the aforementioned right to digital disconnection “, he states Francisco Pérez Bes, partner of digital law at the consulting firm Ecix Group.
Digital disconnection has become a right for workers not to participate in work activities outside of their working time , through digital tools. This right, as recognized by the European Court of Justice itself, empowers workers to turn off work tools and not respond to requests from employers outside working hours, without the risk of possible reprisals.
On the contrary, this right corresponds to an obligation for the employer not to require workers to work outside their working hours.
Indeed, according to current legislation and Community jurisprudence, workers are not obliged to be at the employer’s disposal on a constant and uninterrupted basis and that there is a difference between the working time, in which the worker must be available employer, and non-working time.
The data on this matter is worrying: according to the WHO, worldwide more than 300 million people suffer from depression and common mental disorders related to work.
Furthermore, according to Eurofound, more than a third of Union workers started working from home during lockdown , compared to 5% who routinely worked from home, which has been accompanied by a substantial increase in the use of digital tools for employment purposes; Such a situation, according to this same study, has led 27% of those surveyed who worked from home to affirm that in the last year they had worked in their free time to satisfy work demands.
Among the conclusions of the Eurofound report, the one that stands out is that people who work from home regularly are more than twice as likely to work above the maximum legal limit and run the risk of resting less than the hours required by the Law of Employment. the Union, compared to those who work on the company’s premises. In addition, it stresses that habitual teleworking, when it occurs from home, can have negative physical consequences for workers,
One of the highlights in this document has to do with the reference to Directive 89/391 / EEC and Directive 2003/88 / EC, which require companies to establish a system that allows computing the daily working hours performed by each worker and that said system is “objective, reliable and accessible”.
“In this era of teleworking, more and more companies demand electronic solutions from us that allow, on the one hand, to control the working day and, on the other, to maintain control of the performance of their employees in the different projects in which they participate, since physical control of their performance is no longer possible due to remote work, highlights Pérez Bes.
Faced with this situation, the European Parliament has required the Commission to present a proposal for a Directive regulating the right to digital disconnection of workers , containing minimum standards and conditions to ensure that workers can effectively exercise their right to disconnect and regulate the use of existing and new digital tools for employment purposes.
The proposed Directive highlights that “constant connectivity combined with a high demand for work and the growing expectation that workers are reachable at any time, can negatively affect their fundamental rights and the balance between their private life and their professional life, as well as their physical and mental health and well-being. ”
Furthermore, it points out that “an effective record of working time can contribute to respecting contractual working time”. He adds that “although it is important to record working time, attention must be paid to effectiveness, since there are only regulations on this in a few States.”
The EU warns of health problems
The European Parliament points out, in its proposal for a Directive, that receiving work during rest hours affects health . It considers that “interruptions to non-working time of workers and the extension of their working hours can increase the risk of unpaid overtime, work fatigue, psychosocial, mental and physical problems, such as anxiety, depression, burnout and techno-stress, and can have a negative impact on your health and safety at work, your work-life balance and your time off. “