Employment & labor law /

The right to be offline- new challenges in working in the realities of a pandemic

According to Eurofound research, more than 1/3 of European Union workers started working from home during the lockdown caused by COVID-19. Of these employees, 27% reported having worked in their spare time to cope with the workload. In response to these figures, the EU Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee on 1 of December 2020 adopted a resolution along with a draft of a directive on the right to disconnect. This was followed by a debate and its report contains recommendations to the Commission on the right to be offline. According to the EU Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, the increasing use of digital technologies has changed traditional working models and created a culture of „always online” and „always available worker”.

What does „being offline” mean?

The Commission proposes to define this concept as not engaging in work-related tasks outside of working time and not participating in communication through digital tools, either directly or indirectly.

It should be emphasized that it is the employers’ responsibility to organize the work process in such a way as to guarantee employees the possibility of exercising the right to be offline. In practice, this would presumably assume the implementation of IT systems enabling the actual measurement of the time worked every day by each employee in accordance with the employees’ right to privacy and to the protection of personal data.

Regulating the right to be offline has both its supporters and opponents. The last ones criticize the excessive regulation of the employment relationship and indicate that in practice it will result in the creation of new, bureaucratic obligations and, consequently, will increase employment costs. Taking into account the difficult, pandemic times, the effect may be the need for reduction of employment level by some employing entities.

The right to disconnect and the Polish regulation of remote work

In Poland, work is currently underway to amend the Labor Code and regulate remote work. However, the right to be offline will probably not be part of the new law. Although work on the new regulations is still ongoing, the right to disconnect has not yet been mentioned in the dialogue between the Ministry of Development, Labor and Technology and social partners. For now, therefore, everything indicates that this issue will remain in the sphere of organization and work culture of individual employers.

Author team leader DKP Legal Alicja Myśluk-Landowska
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