What Does the New Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect Oblige Employers to Do?

Posted in : Supplementary Articles ROI on 27 April 2021
Jennifer Cashman
Issues covered: Right to Disconnect; Remote Working; Working Time and Leave

On the 1st April 2021, the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, brought into effect the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Disconnect (‘the Code’).

What is the Right to Disconnect? 

The Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Disconnect (‘the Code’) seeks to tackle the harmful “always on” culture in the workplace and provide employees with the ability to switch off from work outside of normal working hours, including the right to not respond immediately to emails, telephone calls or other messages.

The Code confirms that the right to disconnect has three main elements;

  1. The right of an employee to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours.
  2. The right to not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours.
  3. The duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g. by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).

What Does the Code Oblige Employers to Do?

In a nutshell, the Code places an obligation on employers to do the following;

  1. Engage proactively with employees and/or their trade union or other employee representatives to develop a Right to Disconnect Policy that takes account of the particular needs of the business and its workforce.
  2. Equality proof the Policy to avoid unintended negative consequences for any employees. For example, the Code refers to employees with caring responsibilities and some employees with a disability who may not be able to stay connected outside of the working day or may need more flexibility to reconnect.
  3. Reference the Right to Disconnect Policy in an employee’s terms and conditions of employment or employment contract and cross-reference the organization’s Dignity at Work, E-Communications, Data Protection and Confidentiality policies. The company’s formal grievance procedure should be utilised for any concerns that employees have that their right to disconnect is not being respected or that their workload is such that they are not able to disconnect at the end of their normal working day.
  4. Emphasise the Right to Disconnect Policy during an induction process.
  5. Review the effectiveness of the Right to Disconnect Policy annually in accordance with company practice and, where appropriate, in consultation with trade union or other employee representatives as appropriate.
  6. Provide training and support for managers on the policies and procedures and the right to disconnect so that the managers can demonstrate clear commitment to the policy through leadership and be active role models.
  7. Provide training to staff to reinforce the appropriate behaviours around disconnecting from work outside normal working hours.
  8. Where not already in place, introduce a time management system to record working time and attendance.
  9. Consider the use of measures such as email footers and pop-up messages to remind employees, and customers, that there is no requirement to reply to emails out of hours and an answer should not be expected. Also, the use of delay send options should be utilised where appropriate.

The main thrust of the Code is the creation of a workplace culture in which employees feel they can disconnect from work and work-related devices.  The Code recognises that this necessitates a joint approach by both employers and employees.  So, the onus is not solely on employers - employees do not escape obligations under the Code.

Legal Island Training Resources

Legal Island has just launched a brand-new Right to Disconnect eLearning course in partnership with Ronan Daly Jermyn (RDJ). The provision of this training for your staff will enable your organisation to act in compliance with the Code, help reinforce the appropriate behaviours around disconnecting from work outside normal working hours and create a culture of good work/life balance.

Engagement and training of managers and staff on the "Right to Disconnect" is a key feature of the Code. Employers should provide training to all staff on commencement, together with regular refresher updates throughout their employment.

Click here to view more information on this course 

This article is correct at 27/04/2021

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Jennifer Cashman

The main content of this article was provided by Jennifer Cashman. Contact telephone number is +353 21 480 2700  or email jennifer.cashman@rdj.ie

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