Previously we wrote regarding the potential compliance challenges of employees working remotely due to the COVID pandemic. We see a growing number of employees working from home. Employers should therefore be aware of these compliance challenges and must also be aware that employees working from home may have the right to disconnect from work.
The Spanish labor inspectorate, for example, has announced that heavy fines will be issued to employers if they do not adhere to the right of employees to digital disconnect from work. This right is now incorporated in the regulation Ley Orgánica of 3/2018 dated 5th of December. This regulation was initially intended to merely implement the EU General Data Protection Regulation in Spain.
Employers should therefore make sure that there is sufficient separation between work and private life of their employees. The “right to a digital lockdown” was the subject in a recent lawsuit in Tarragona. The law case related to a company whose employees would receive email and phone calls outside of working hours and who requested to respond immediately. The employees did respond and followed up the instructions outside of the working hours as they were in fear of losing their jobs.
Now the EU parliament has called for an EU law that should grant employees in EU the right to digitally disconnect from work. In the legislative initiative the members of the EU Parliament call on the EU Commission to propose a law in this regard, including minimum requirements for working remotely, working conditions, hours, and rest periods. For further details, see the following link: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20210114IPR95618/right-to-disconnect-should-be-an-eu-wide-fundamental-right-meps-say
France is considered an initiator in legally recognizing the right to digitally disconnect and it has inspired other EU countries. Some EU countries have the right to disconnect included in their law in some manner. In Italy, for example, the right to disconnect specifies the rest periods of the employee and indicate the technical and organizational measures taken to guarantee the employees right to digitally disconnect.
Awaiting the EU regulations, employers should make sure to check on the local “Working Conditions Acts” and other applicable regulations e.g., Collective Labor Agreement and align their employment agreements and personnel handbook accordingly.
For further assistance, please feel free to contact your local UTN specialist directly via our global website www.unitedtaxnetwork.com
Siegfried R. Jagga Filip Camps